Liability for bunker oil spills

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Pollution damage cause by spills of oil, when carried as fuel in ships’ bunkers, is covered by a particular liability regime. Its application is pending, subject to the ratification by State parties of the 2001 BUNKER convention.

International law

Art. 304 UNCLOS 1982. The UNCLOS is available in full text at

International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (BUNKER) of 23.3.2001 (Entry into force: 21.11.2008). A description of the convention is available at the IMO web site. The convention text is also available at the web pages of University of Oslo.

Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (1976), as amended by the Protocol of 1996 to Amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 – LLMC 1996. See description at and the convention text at

Regulation 12A, MARPOL Annex I on oil fuel tank protection. Described on the IMO website, and available in full text at

P&I Coverage

See the International Group of P&I Clubs web site.

EU Ratification

19.9.2002: Council Decision 2002/762/EC 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). OJ L 256, 25.9.2002, p. 7.

A summary description can be found at

European law

Ratified by all EU-Member States except Austria, Czech Republic, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden

From the EEA-Member States ratified by Norway (not Iceland)


See the CleanSeaNet pages at EMSA's web site.

Statements of EU Institutions

Commission on 26.1.2007: IP/07/100 “Improving safety at sea in Europe”

Commission on 16.9.1987: IP/87/371 “Community task force to fight pollution at sea”

Written Questions by Members of the European Parliament (rule 117)

Written Question E-307/2012 by Morten Messerschmidt: “Pollution from bunker oil” with answer given by Commissioner Kallas of 23.2.2012

Written Question E-2067/01 by Sir Robert Atkins: “Erika II Package — Establishing a COPE Fund”

Written Question E-407/01 by Ewa Hedkvist Petersen: “Competitive disadvantages for ships with catalytic converters” with answer by Commissioner Mrs de Palacio of 11.5.2001

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