INTERTANKO: Unlawful detentions of captains, crews threaten oil supply

Oil spill incidents and the public outrage they create are prompting countries to unlawfully detain tanker captains and crew more frequently for extended periods of time, says the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), Oslo. The association said finding good crew in these circumstances will be difficult.


Oil spill incidents and the public outrage they create are prompting countries to unlawfully detain tanker captains and crew more frequently for extended periods of time, says the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), Oslo. The association said finding good crew in these circumstances will be difficult.

The group says it's asking nations worldwide to obey international conventions governing marine transportation and oil spill liability when handing accidents. Most countries have ratified these conventions and implemented them in national law.

INTERTANKO cited several cases involving the detention of ships and even criminal prosecution, including the oil tanker Nissos Amorgos, which ran aground the Maracaibo Channel in Venezuela in February 1997.

"INTERTANKO recognizes that a nation, state, or province may bring criminal charges following an accident," says Svein Ringbakken, managing director of INTERTANKO.

While, in some cases, ample evidence of negligence may be present to warrant bringing charges against tanker captains and crews, the practice within some countries "totally disregards treaty commitments entered into by the state and appear to let public pressure dictate the measures adopted and not the law."

If this trend continues, INTERTANKO says recruiting quality personnel to operate tankers will be difficult. "Any practice which has an impact on tanker transportation will ultimately have an impact on oil supply."

INTERTANKO says it will soon make public a paper to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) calling for guidelines on the protection of captains and crew against unjustified detentions and prosecution. INTERTANKO will ask IMO to find short-term solutions and develop a code of practice to help countries better protect crews involved in maritime casualties.

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