Ship Agents’ Potential Liabitilities Arising out of a Pollution Incident. by George M. Chalos, Esq.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”), § 2702(a) provides, in part,

“… each responsible party for a vessel or a facility from which oil is discharged,
or which poses the substantial threat of a discharge of oil, into or upon the navigable waters or adjoining shorelines
or the exclusive zone, is liable for the removal costs and damages…”.

For pollution incidents involving a vessel, OPA expressly defines a responsible party as “any person owning, operating or demise chartering the vessel.”

While a ship’s agent has no legal liability under OPA for either an actual or potential pollution incident, it has been our experience that clever plaintiff’s attorneys may seek recovery from a vessel’s agent in ensuing third-party claims litigation (assuming, of course, the pollution incident impacted third parties). Of course, if the pollution incident was caused by an act or omission of the agent, a responsible party may seek indemnity for its statutorily prescribed liability under OPA. Notwithstanding, we are unaware of any third-party claims litigation wherein a claimant successfully prosecuted a recovery against a ship’s agent.

For more information on ship agents liabilities and/or the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, please feel free to contact George M. Chalos, Esq. at the above noted details or by Email at: