LANDMARK CASE FOR SOUTH AMERICA
The beautiful islands of Galapagos, famed for their unique biodiversity and their historical importance in Darwin's theory of evolution, were yesterday at the centre of another historical moment.
The High Court of Justice of Guayaquil, in Ecuador, issued a judgement against British company Terranova Co Ltd and awarded the sum of US $10,000,000 (ten million dollars) as compensation to the Galapagos National Park in the case of the M/T Jessica oil spill in January 2001.
This may be the first direct action started in Ecuador claiming damages for a pollution accident and it is also believed to be the first action of its kind ever started in South America.
Terranova had insured the M/T Jessica, but argued that the insurance had lapsed because the owner of the tanker had not submitted the vessel for inspection and had stopped paying premiums. However, under the CLC Convention 1969, Terranova was obliged to notify the relevant Ecuadorian authorities that the insurance had lapsed. This was not done.
The UN and the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) sponsored the CLC Convention - and Ecuador is a party to that Convention. Its purpose is to protect territorial waters from oil spill and oil pollution catastrophes and gives third parties the possibility to sue the underwriters -directly - in the territory where the accident occurs.
Litigation has been going on for most of this year. Terranova has three days to appeal; otherwise the judgement will be firm and binding.
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