Shipowners, charterers, masters, operators need to be in caution of increased liabilities for fines being introduced in Australia, in addition to any pollution clean-up costs and damage claims.
Specifically, law firm HWL Ebsworth reminds that, with effect from 1 July 2020, the majority of Australian States (and the Northern Territory) have increased their fines for pollution related incidents.
The fines apply to oil spills that are within, or migrate to within, 3 nautical miles of the coast. Beyond 3 nautical miles the Commonwealth legislation will apply.
It is highlighted that the discharge of oil in Commonwealth, State or Territory waters is a strict liability offence for owners and masters and potentially crew members too, plus those involved in the operation and maintenance of the ship. The Commonwealth legislation expressly also includes charterers in the list of those strictly liable.
The maximum fine for an oil spill in Commonwealth waters is up to AUS$4.44 million for a master and AUS$22.2 million for a corporate owner or charterer.
Keep in mind that the fines are not limited to oil or bunker spills and could also apply to other situations, for example where containers have been lost overboard.
Standard Club notes that
Should a spill or incident occur, owners should take immediate steps to notify the relevant authorities. Steps should also be taken to mitigate the physical damage and manage the resulting liabilities and penalties with care.