The South African coastline has claimed two more victims in recent months, the mv KIANI SATU and mv SMART. Both vessels ran aground close to environmentally sensitive regions where the effects of an oil spill could have been devastating. Fortunately, neither was a tanker, and in each case environmental degradation was contained. 

South Africa acceded to the 1992 CLC and Fund Conventions* in June 2004, but remains unable to access any of the compensation these Conventions provide, owing to delays in implementing the necessary domestic legislation.  Happily, there has been progress recently.

The Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability Convention) Bill and the Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Contributions Bill were both passed by the National Assembly this month and must now be assented to by the President. The latter will facilitate South Africa's access to the compensation provided by the Fund Convention in circumstances where a full or partial redress from the shipowner is not possible.

The Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Contributions Bill and the Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Administration Bill regulate the collection of levies and taxes. These bills have also been approved by the National Assembly and have been sent to the National Council of Provinces for approval.

* The Fund Convention, an inter-governmental measure, established a fund, contributed to by contracting states in proportion to the volume of the imports of their individual oil dealers, and financed by levies upon oil companies in proportion to the volume of their imports.  The fund was established with the express aim of providing compensation for pollution damage to the extent that the 1992 CLC is inadequate.  These Conventions only provide for pollution caused by oil tankers. Legislative reform is separately required to address pollution caused by a bunker spill from vessels other than tankers such as the vessels referred to above.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.