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Convictions since the Prestige

Convictions since 2002.

The Prestige incident brought renewed interest to the issue of legislation. The repression policy embarked upon after the Erika disaster was reinforced through a new organisational structure of decentralised courts and larger control zones (French law 2003-346 dated 15 April 2003).

The effect of the decentralisation of jurisdictions

The designation of courts for the coast with a jurisdiction over one or more courts of appeal is an important step. By choosing Marseille, Brest and Le Havre as courts for the exclusive economic zone, the law brought the magistrates closer to the Maritime Prefects. The coastal judges have taken advantage of their close contact with the State authorities to develop a more active repressive policy and do not hesitate to reroute vessels.

The upshot of rerouting is the release of vessels on bail, guaranteeing the payment of fines in the event of a conviction, and is in line with the State's attitude in favour of improving the effectiveness of fines.

The Nova Hollandia alongside quay after being rerouted to Brest
The Nova Hollandia alongside quay after being rerouted to Brest
The Pantokrastoras alongside quay after being rerouted to Brest
The Pantokrastoras alongside quay after being rerouted to Brest

More and more environmental protection associations claim damages and obtain compensation, showing that environmental damage is being allocated more recognition. However this compensation is likely to remain limited by taking into account the real impact of the spill in question.

Judgements and cases since the Prestige spill

Ship name

Date

Type

Flag

Capitain

Jurisdiction

Judgement

Conviction or down payment

LIA

26/01/2000

ore carrier

Greek

Greek

EEZ* Brest high court

05/11/2003

15 000 Euros

VOLTAIRE

22/05/2003

container ship

French

German

EEZ* Brest high court CA Rennes

18/11/2003

100 000 € 1st instance
200 000€ on appeal

DOBRUDJA

30/07/2003

cargo ship

Bulgarian

Bulgarian

EEZ* Brest high court Rennes court of appeal

16/12/2003

200 000€ confirmed
on appeal on 01/05

SANTA MARIA

08/04/2003

cargo ship

German

EEZ* Paris high court Paris court of appeal

18/02/2004

200 000€ confirmed
on appeal on 21/12/04

NICHOLAS M

22/12/2003

ore carrier

St Vincent & Grenadines

Egyptian

EEZ* Brest high court

18/05/2004

150 000 Euros

NOVA HOLLANDIA

21/01/2004

cargo ship

Maltese

Russian

EEZ* Brest high court

15/06/2004

discharge/appeal prosecutor
+ vigipol

PONTOKRASTORAS

21/12/2003

cargo ship

Cypriot

Romanian

EEZ* Brest high court

29/06/2004

350 000 Euros

ARROYOFRIO DOS

02/03/2004

cargo ship

Portuguese

Croatian

EEZ* Brest high court

20/07/2004

200 000 Euros

CIMIL

29/01/2004

container ship

Turkish

Turkish

EPZ**Marseille high court

06/09/2004

300 000 Euros

KHALED IBN AL WALEED

11/02/2004

container ship

United Arab Emirates

Pakistani

territoral waters Marseille high court

06/09/2004

500 000 Euros
+ 1 year's suspended sentence

TK-VENICE

06/05/2004

cargo ship

Maltese

Turkish

EEZ* Le Havre high court

04/10/2004

70 000 Euros

MSC NiICOLE

13/08/2001

container ship

Swiss

Italian

EEZ* Brest high court

05/10/2004

250 000 Euros

MORITZ SCHULTE

01/06/2004

gas carrier

Man

Polish

EEZ* Brest high court

12/10/2004

230 000 Euros

VANCOUVER SPIRIT

16/07/2001

tanker

Bahamian

German

EEZ* Brest high court

19/10/2004

100 000 Euros

CONCORDIA 1

05/09/2000

oil tanker

Maltese

Greek

EEZ* Brest high court

26/10/2004

140 000 Euros

GAZ VENEZIA

04/06/2004

gas carrier

Panamian

Greek?

EEZ* Brest high court

09/11/2004

250 000 Euros

PANAREA PRIMO

06/03/2004

bulk carrier

Italian

Italian

territoral waters Marseille high court

15/11/2004

70 000 Euros

MEGA EXPRESS

12/05/2004

ferry

Italian

Italian

EPZ**Marseille high court

report mars2005

500 000 € down payment

NANDO

12/05/2004

oil tanker

Italian

Italian

EPZ**Marseille high court

29/11/2004

400 000 Euros
on 10/01/05

Cases which appeared in the press

* EEZ = exclusive economic zone
** EPZ = environmental protection zone

Ship-owners began to become aware of the risk that was involved in the development of an effective repressive policy. As they were the party responsible for paying the majority of the fine, they ensured a defence worthy of the financial stakes involved, and attempted to contest the testimony of witnesses who carried out aerial observation. Their analysis of the situation aimed at reducing the incidents to a simple question of separating equipment or disputing the integrity of the observations.

More and more appeals began to be made to avoid paying fines which were no longer purely symbolic. Thus the initial fines imposed were then confirmed or reinforced on appeal (see the VOLTAIRE case above). Decisions based on the visibility of oil and photographic evidence, as initiated by the TRAQUAIR case, were further confirmed by Rennes' court of appeal.

Evidence of damage to the environment is a new issue in the debate, although judges now take videos into consideration as evidence, as in the MED-RIVA and the DOBRUDJA cases.

The possibility of resorting to Paris' high court in the event of a major spill, as allowed for in the Perben II law, does not appear to apply to regular illicit discharge, however it can apply in the case of particularly significant amounts of discharge with considerable financial implications involving several States.

Last update: 12/03/2008