Erika compensation saga nears end - 22/08/2014

The final claim is set to be resolved 15 years after the notorious tanker oil spill off France

A line is to be drawn under one of the most notorious tanker spills of modern times, with the final claim set to be resolved.

Nearly 15 years after the 37,000-dwt Erika (built 1975) broke up and sank in the Bay of Biscay, spilling almost 20,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, only a single relatively modest claim that may well be dead remains outstanding.

All members of the crew were rescued but a major spill stretching over 400 kilometres (249 miles) of Brittany’s shoreline required a huge clean-up operation and generated 250,000 tons of oily waste.

The French government also ordered for the removal of more than 11,000 tons of oil trapped in the sunken bow and stern sections of the wreck.

Compensation of nearly EUR 130m ($173m) has been paid out to oil-spill victims and the Erika has entered the maritime vocabulary through the European Union (EU)’s Erika I, II and III safety packages.

Erika I created a blacklist of older ships that had been detained that could be denied entry to European ports and speeded up the introduction of doubled-hulled ships.

Erika II set up vessel monitoring and paved the way for the creation of the European Maritime Safety Agency.

Erika III set standards for European flags, classification societies and port state control.

Now just a single claim for $116,000 from a restaurant that argued it lost business as a result of the spill is pending. The claim may not be soundly based, or may have gone stale through lack of prosecution, but, whatever the outcome, the Erika incident is effectively over.

The vessel’s owner, Tevere Shipping, and Panship Shipmanagement were found guilty of failing to properly maintain the tanker. French oil company Total, which chartered the vessel, fell foul of inadequate vetting and Italian classification society Rina certified the vessel on the basis of a substandard survey.

The Steamship Mutual protection-and-indemnity (P&I) club, the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds, Rina and Total all participated in a global settlement of outstanding issues.

The original estimates of the likely cost of compensating victims of the spill proved rather conservative and the IOPC Funds has returned $85m to the cargo interests who faced a levy to pay for the incident.

in 22/08/2014