Ship operators try to slip oil spill liability
Merchant ships should not be included in any congressional measures to increase liability limits for companies that cause oil spills, World Shipping Council President Christopher Koch said Monday.
Senate Democrats are trying to eliminate the statutory cap of $75 million for economic damages associated with offshore drilling accidents so that companies would have unlimited liability for supporting affected communities. Responsible parties already have unlimited liability when it comes to the cost of cleaning up an offshore oil spill.
Bills debated so far have only addressed offshore drilling, but Koch said the container line industry is concerned Congress may react to the oil spill by also jacking up liability for any party that spills oil at sea.
The preventive language at the National Industrial Transportation League's spring conference in Arlington, Va., echoed comments he made two weeks ago during a roundtable on maritime bottlenecks for exports convened by Rep. John Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Koch said then that ship owners shouldn't be covered because they only carry a finite amount of fuel onboard.
'Don't punish ships in trying to deal with the oil spill,' he said.
Increasing the oil spill liability for cargo ships would be 'disastrous' for the industry, he explained afterwards because insurers would hike premiums to unsustainable levels. ' Eric Kulisch