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Maritime safety: Bunkers Convention

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Maritime safety: Bunkers Convention

This Decision aims to authorise the Member States to become Contracting Parties to the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage.


Council Decision 2002/762/EC of 19 September 2002 authorising the Member States, in the interest of the Community, to sign, ratify or accede to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (the Bunkers Convention) [Official Journal L 256 of 25.09.2002].


The Bunkers Convention was adopted on 23 March 2001, under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), with the aim of ensuring adequate, prompt and effective compensation of persons who suffer damage caused by spills of oil carried as fuel in ships' bunkers.

The Bunkers Convention fills a significant gap in the international regulations on marine pollution liability. This Convention makes for improved victim protection, in keeping with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This Decision, adopted by the Council of the European Union (EU) on 19 September 2002, authorised the Member States to sign, ratify or accede to the Bunkers Convention, subject to the conditions set out in the Decision.

Articles 9 and 10 of the Bunkers Convention affect the rules laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.

The Community therefore has sole competence in relation to Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention. The Court of Justice has ruled that the Community alone is empowered to negotiate and conclude international commitments in fields over which it has exclusive competence. However, the Bunkers Convention makes no provision for an international organisation such as the European Community to become a Contracting Party to the Convention. It will therefore be up to the Member States, after authorisation by the Community, to sign, ratify or accede to the Convention in the interest of the Community.

Consequently, the objective of this Decision is to authorise the Member States to sign, ratify or accede to the Convention and to place an obligation on them, when they do so, to make a declaration committing themselves to apply Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 in their mutual relations.


The Convention applies to:

  • pollution damage caused in the territory, in the territorial sea and in the exclusive economic zone or equivalent zone of any State which is a party to the Convention;
  • measures taken to prevent or minimise such damage.

The provisions of the Convention do not apply to warships, naval auxiliary or other ships owned by a State. However, any State which is a party to the Convention may decide to apply the Convention to such ships.

Liability of the shipowner

The shipowner at the time of an incident is liable for all pollution damage caused by its bunker oil. However, no liability will attach to the shipowner if the shipowner proves that:

  • the damage resulted from an act of war, hostilities, insurrection or a natural phenomenon of an exceptional, inevitable and irresistible character; or
  • the damage was caused by an act or omission done with intent to cause damage by a third party; or
  • the damage was wholly caused by the negligence of any Government or other authority responsible

Limitation of liability

The financial liability of the liable party is subject to the limits laid down in the applicable national or international regime but may under no circumstances exceed an amount calculated in accordance with the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, as amended.

Compulsory insurance or financial security

Owners of ships with a gross tonnage greater than 1 000 registered in a State which is a party to the Convention are required to maintain insurance or other financial security, such as the guarantee of a bank or similar financial institution, to cover their liability for pollution damage.

A certificate attesting that insurance or other financial security is in force is issued to each ship after the appropriate authority of a State which is a party to the Convention has determined that insurance or other financial security exists.

This certificate must be carried on board the ship and a copy must be deposited with the authorities who keep the ship's registration.

Any claim for compensation for pollution damage may be brought directly against the insurer or other person providing financial security for the registered owner's liability for pollution damage.

Each State which is a party to the Convention must ensure, under its national law, that insurance or other security is in force in respect of any ship with a gross tonnage greater than 1 000, wherever registered, entering or leaving a port in its territory.

Jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments

Where an incident has caused pollution damage in the territory of one or more States which are party to the Convention, actions for compensation against the shipowner, insurer or other person providing security may be brought only in the courts of any such States.

The Convention defines the conditions under which a judgment given by a court in one State which is a party to the Convention can be recognised or enforced in another.

Time limits

Rights to compensation under this Convention will lapse if no action is brought within three years from the date when the damage occurred. However, in no case may an action be brought more than six years from the date of the incident which caused the damage.

Entry into force

The Council Decision calls on Member States to take the necessary steps to deposit their instruments of ratification of, or accession to, the Bunkers Convention within a reasonable time with the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation, if possible before 30 June 2006. Member States are required to inform the Council and the Commission, before 30 June 2004, of the prospective date of finalisation of their ratification or accession procedures.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2002/762/EC



L 256 of 25.9.2002

Last updated: 14.05.2007