Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution) Act 1971

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1971 c. 59


Merchant Shipping(Oil Pollution) Act 1971

1971 CHAPTER 59

An Act to make provision with respect to civil liability for oil pollution by merchant ships; and for connected purposes.

[27th July 1971]

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

S-1 Liability for oil pollution.

1 Liability for oil pollution.

(1) Where, as a result of any occurrence taking place while a ship is carrying a cargo of persistent oil in bulk, any persistent oil carried by the ship (whether as part of the cargo or otherwise) is discharged or escapes from the ship, the owner of the ship shall be liable, except as otherwise provided by this Act,—

(a ) for any damage caused in the area of the United Kingdom by contamination resulting from the discharge or escape; and

(b ) for the cost of any measures reasonably taken after the discharge or escape for the purpose of preventing or reducing any such damage in the area of the United Kingdom; and

(c ) for any damage caused in the area of the United Kingdom by any measures so taken.

(2) Where a person incurs a liability under subsection (1) of this section he shall also be liable for any damage or cost for which he would be liable under that subsection if the references therein to the area of the United Kingdom included the area of any other Convention country.

(3) Where persistent oil is discharged or escapes from two or more ships and—

(a ) a liability is incurred under this section by the owner of each of them; but

(b ) the damage or cost for which each of the owners would be liable cannot reasonably be separated from that for which the other or others would be liable;

each of the owners shall be liable, jointly with the other or others, for the whole of the damage or cost for which the owners together would be liable under this section.

(4) For the purposes of this Act, where more than one discharge or escape results from the same occurrence or from a series of occurrences having the same origin, they shall be treated as one; but any measures taken after the first of them shall be deemed to have been taken after the discharge or escape.

(5) The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 and, in Northern Ireland, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1948 shall apply in relation to any damage or cost for which a person is liable under this section, but which is not due to his fault, as if it were due to his fault.

S-2 Exceptions from liability under s. 1.

2 Exceptions from liability under s. 1.

2. The owner of a ship from which persistent oil has been discharged or has escaped shall not incur any liability under section 1 of this Act if he proves that the discharge or escape—

a ) resulted from an act of war, hostilities, civil war insurrection or an exceptional, inevitable and irresistible natural phenomenon; or
b ) was due wholly to anything done or left undone by another person, not being a servant or agent of the owner, with intent to do damage; or
c ) was due wholly to the negligence or wrongful act of a government or other authority in exercising its function of maintaining lights or other navigational aids for the maintenance of which it was responsible
S-3 Restriction of liability for oil pollution.

3 Restriction of liability for oil pollution.

3. Where, as a result of any occurrence taking place while a ship is carrying a cargo of persistent oil in bulk, any persistent oil carried by the ship is discharged or escapes then, whether or not the owner incurs a liability under section 1 of this Act,—

a ) he shall not be liable otherwise than under that section for any such damage or cost as is mentioned therein; and
b ) no servant or agent of the owner nor any person performing salvage operations with the agreement of the owner shall be liable for any such damage or cost.
S-4 Limitation of liability under s. 1.

4 Limitation of liability under s. 1.

(1) Where the owner of a ship incurs a liability under section 1 of this Act by reason of a discharge or escape which occurred without his actual fault or privity—

(a ) section 503 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 (limitation of liability) shall not apply in relation to that liability; but

(b ) he may limit that liability in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and if he does so his liability (that is to say, the aggregate of his liabilities under section 1 resulting from the discharge or escape) shall not exceed 2,000 gold francs for each ton of the ship's tonnage nor (where that tonnage would result in a greater amount) 210 million gold francs.

(2) For the purposes of this section the tonnage of a ship shall be ascertained as follows:—

(a ) if the ship is a British ship (whether registered in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) or a ship to which an Order under section 84 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 applies, its tonnage shall be taken to be its registered tonnage increased, where a deduction has been made for engine room space in arriving at that tonnage, by the amount of that deduction;

(b ) if the ship is not such a ship as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph and it is possible to ascertain what would be its registered tonnage if it were registered in the United Kingdom, that paragraph shall apply (with the necessary modifications) as if the ship were so registered;

(c ) if the ship is not such a ship as is mentioned in paragraph (a ) of this subsection and is of a description with respect to which no provision is for the time being made by regulations under section 1 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1965 (tonnage regulations) its tonnage shall be taken to be 40 per cent. of the weight (expressed in tons of 2,240 lbs.) of oil which the ship is capable of carrying;

(d ) if the tonnage of the ship cannot be ascertained in accordance with the preceding paragraphs the Chief Ship Surveyor of the Department of Trade and Industry shall, if so directed by the court, certify what, on the evidence specified in the direction, would in his opinion be the tonnage of the ship if ascertained in accordance with those paragraphs, and the tonnage stated in his certificate shall be taken to be the tonnage of the ship.

(3) For the purposes of this section a gold franc shall be taken to be a unit of sixty-five and a half milligrams of gold of millesimal fineness nine hundred.

(4) The Secretary of State may from time to time by order made by statutory instrument specify the amounts which for the purposes of this section are to be taken as equivalent to 2,000 gold francs and 210 million gold francs respectively.

(5) Where the amounts specified by an order under the preceding subsection are varied by a subsequent order the variation shall not affect the limit of any liability under section 1 of this Act if, before the variation comes into force, an amount not less than that limit (ascertained in accordance with the order then in force) has been paid into court (or, in Scotland, consigned in court) in proceedings for the limitation of that liability in accordance with this Act.

S-5 Limitation actions.

5 Limitation actions.

(1) Where the owner of a ship has or is alleged to have incurred a liability under section 1 of this Act he may apply to the court for the limitation of that liability to an amount determined in accordance with section 4 of this Act.

(2) If on such an application the court finds that the applicant has incurred such a liability and is entitled to limit it, the court shall, after determining the limit of the liability and directing payment into court of the amount of that limit,—

(a ) determine the amounts that would, apart from the limit, be due in respect of the liability to the several persons making claims in the proceedings; and

(b ) direct the distribution of the amount paid into court (or, as the case may be, so much of it as does not exceed the liability) among those persons in proportion to their claims, subject to the following provisions of this section.

(3) No claim shall be admitted in proceedings under this section unless it is made within such time as the court may direct or such further time as the court may allow.

(4) Where any sum has been paid in or towards satisfaction of any claim in respect of the damage or cost to which the liability extends,—

(a ) by the owner or the person referred to in section 12 of this Act as ‘the insurer’; or

(b ) by a person who has or is alleged to have incurred...

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