Compensation and Claims Management

The principal role of the IOPC Funds is to pay compensation to those who have suffered oil pollution damage in a Member State who cannot obtain full compensation for the pollution damage from the shipowner under the relevant Civil Liability Convention. Claimants may be individuals, partnerships, companies, private organisations or public bodies, including States or local authorities.

Claims settlement

In the great majority of cases, claims are settled out of court. The Director has the authority to settle claims and pay compensation up to predetermined levels. However, for incidents involving larger claims or where a specific claim gives rise to a question of principle which has not previously been decided by the governing bodies, the Director needs approval from the relevant governing body of the Fund in question. The Director is further permitted, in certain circumstances, and within certain limits, to make provisional payment of compensation before a claim is settled if this is necessary to mitigate undue financial hardship to victims of pollution incidents.

Under the Fund Conventions, the Funds are obliged to ensure that all claimants are given equal treatment so if the total amount of the established claims exceeds the total amount of compensation available under the Civil Liability and Fund Conventions, each claimant will receive the same proportion of the loss. When there is a risk that this situation will arise, the Funds may have to restrict compensation payments to a percentage of the losses to ensure that all claimants are given equal treatment. The payment level may increase at a later stage if the uncertainty about the total amount of the established claims is reduced. One important effect of the establishment of the Supplementary Fund is that, in practically all cases, it should be possible from the outset to pay compensation for pollution damage in Supplementary Fund Member States at 100% of the amount of damage agreed between the Fund and the claimant.

Admissibility of claims for compensation

To be entitled to compensation, the pollution damage must result in an actual and quantifiable economic loss. The claimant must be able to show the amount of his loss or damage by producing accounting records or other appropriate evidence.

An oil pollution incident can generally give rise to claims for five types of pollution damage:

  • Property damage
  • Costs of clean-up operations at sea and on shore
  • Economic losses by fishermen or those engaged in mariculture
  • Economic losses in the tourism sector
  • Costs for reinstatement of the environment

Claims are assessed according to criteria established by the Governments of Member States. These criteria, which also apply to claims against the Supplementary Fund, are set out in the 1992 Fund’s Claims Manual, which is a practical guide on how to present claims for compensation.

The Funds, normally in co-operation with the shipowner’s insurer, usually appoint experts to monitor clean-up operations, to investigate the technical merits of claims and to make independent assessments of the losses.

How to submit a claim

Claims should be made in writing (including e-mail) and should be presented clearly and with sufficient information and supporting documentation to enable the amount of the damage to be assessed. Each item of a claim must be substantiated by an invoice or other relevant supporting documentation, such as work sheets, explanatory notes, accounts and photographs. It is the responsibility of claimants to submit sufficient evidence to support their claims. It is important that the documentation is complete and accurate.

To give an indication of the type of information which would be required to substantiate a claim, an example Claim Form is provided for information. However, in the event of a major incident, an incident specific form will be made available to claimants. Additional information may be required for specific types of claim. For this reason, the example claim form includes specific sections for the typical sectors which experience losses as a result of a major incident. The relevant sections of the form would be made available depending on the location of the incident.

In most incidents claims should be sent to the offices of the shipowner’s insurer or to the IOPC Funds directly. Occasionally, when an incident gives rise to a large number of claims, the 1992 Fund and the P&I Club jointly set up a local claims office so that claims may be processed more easily. In such cases, claimants should submit their claims to that local claims office. The address to which claims for a specific incident should be sent would be given in the local press and also provided on this website.

If claimants suffer damage in a State that is Party to the Supplementary Fund Protocol, their claims will automatically be considered for compensation from the Supplementary Fund, if the amount available from the shipowner/insurer and the 1992 Fund is insufficient to pay full compensation for proven losses.

All claims are referred to the 1992 Fund and the shipowner’s P&I Club for decisions on whether or not they qualify for compensation, and, if so, the amounts of compensation due to the claimants. Neither designated local correspondents nor local claims offices have the authority to make these decisions.

When to submit a claim

Claimants ultimately lose their right to compensation under the 1992 Fund Convention unless they bring court action against the 1992 Fund within three years of the date on which the damage occurred, or make formal notification to the 1992 Fund of a court action against the shipowner or his insurer within the three-year period. Similarly, claimants lose their right to compensation from the shipowner and his insurer under the 1992 Civil Liability Convention unless they bring court action against them within three years from the date when the damage occurred. Although damage may occur some time after an incident takes place, in both cases court action must in any event be brought within six years of the date of the incident.

Further information

Detailed information on the incidents currently being dealt with by the Claims Department can be found under the incidents section and in the publication Incidents Involving the IOPC Funds. It sets out the developments in the various cases during the course of the year and the position taken by the governing bodies in respect of claims.