Liability, Prevention, Civil, Criminal, Precaution, Marine Pollution, Damages, Inspections, Jurisdiction, Evidence

On 12 December 1999, A Maltese boat called Erika sank. Tons of fuel oil were spilt on the coast of Brittany at the same time causing an ecological disaster. The Court of Cassation addressed the civil and criminal liability of certain parties. The Court of Cassation based its judgment on three points.

First, it is ruled that French courts have the competence to judge the consequence of an accident, which took place outside France’s territorial waters but within its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Court overrules the principle of the competence of the vessel’s flag state. It justified France’s jurisdiction, by referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1991 International Convention on Civil Liability for Damage from oil pollution.
Secondly, the Court applies the French law which include different person responsible. It considered that four parties were criminal responsible: shipowner (Tevere Shipping), ship management company, (Panship) ship’s charterer (Total), the certification company (RINA).  The civil liability of these four parties is also recognized.
Finally, the Court explicitly recognized the pure ecological damage for the first time, and the possibility of obtaining compensation for.