Non-tanker and/or mystery spills

Whilst the CLC 92 and Fund 92 are in place to compensate damages resulting from tanker spills, the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage governs compensation for damages caused by spills of oil carried as fuel in the bunker tanks of non-tankers.

This IMO Convention seeks to ensure that adequate compensation is promptly available to persons who are required to clean up or who suffer damage as a result of spills of ships' bunker oil, who would not otherwise be compensated under the CLC 92 and Fund 92. The Convention is modeled on the CLC 92 and entered into force on 21 November 2008.

The term 'mystery spill' refers to an oil spill for which the source has not been identified. For the purposes of compensation for damages resulting from such spills they may be broadly divided into two categories:

  1. those which are deemed to be sourced from an unidentifiable tanker;
  2. those which cannot be attributed to a tanker (i.e. possibly from a non-tanker ship, a sunken wreck, a pipeline, a natural seep or another source).

In cases where it can be shown that the oil has been sourced from a tanker (e.g. a large quantity of non-native crude oil washing up on a shoreline) and the country which has been affected is a party to the Fund 92, then compensation may be available under this Convention.

In mystery spill cases where the damage cannot be attributed to a tanker, there is no existing international legislation governing compensation and costs would most likely be covered by the government of the country affected. Advances in 'fingerprinting oils have increased the chances of determining the source of oil in many cases, reducing the number of 'mystery spills' in areas where the technology is readily available.