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International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds Celebrate 40 Years

Volunteers cleaning the coastline in Galicia in the aftermath of the Prestige spill, March 2003
Volunteers cleaning the coastline in Galicia in the aftermath of the Prestige spill, March 2003

By MarEx 2018-10-30 20:07:25

The International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds have provided financial help in 150 oil spill incidents since 1978. 

The IOPC Funds are two intergovernmental organizations (the 1992 Fund and the Supplementary Fund) which provide compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers. The fund was established after the Torrey Canyon ran aground near the Scilly Isles in 1967, fouling U.K. and French coastlines. The incident exposed a number of serious shortcomings, in particular the absence of an international agreement on liability and compensation in the event of such a spill. 

The International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1971 (1971 Fund Convention) entered into force in October 1978 with 14 Member States. A few weeks later, the very first 1971 Fund Assembly was held, and a new organization, the IOPC Fund, was established.

Adopted under the auspices of the IMO, the entry into force of the 1971 Fund Convention, together with that of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 (1969 Civil Liability Convention) in 1975, created a new international regime to compensate victims of oil pollution damage resulting from tanker spills.

Over time, it became clear that the amount of compensation available for major incidents needed to be increased and the scope of the regime widened. This resulted in two further instruments, known as the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention. Following the Erika and Prestige incidents, a third instrument, the Protocol to the 1992 Fund Convention (Supplementary Fund Protocol), was adopted in 2003, providing additional compensation over and above that available under the 1992 Fund Convention for pollution damage in the States that become Parties to the Protocol.

The IOPC Funds brings governments, shipowners and the oil industry together to protect victims of oil pollution damage and is financed by contributions from organizations receiving major oil shipments by sea in ports and terminals located in the IOPC member states. It has continued to grow in membership, with the 1992 Fund now including 115 States as members. 

The first chart below shows the number of incidents per year which involved the IOPC Funds and the second shows the number of incidents by cause. (Source: IOPC Funds)