Following an oil spill, swift and aggressive measures are often taken to ensure that the public demand for justice is fulfilled. Unfortunately, seafarers are often placed in the post-incident spotlight, regardless of whether the incident involved operational error. During the 2002 Prestige accident, an oil spill formed off the coast of Spain in the middle of a raging storm. Spanish authorities denied the ship access to a calm harbor, which would have allowed the captain and crew to mitigate the environmental harm.
Part I of this article will review the Prestige oil spill, where criminal liability was imposed on the seafarers, and Spain’s role in the matter. Part II will address the international legal framework governing these situations. Part III will examine the governing regional and domestic legal frameworks and the contradictions between international law and domestic/regional law regarding criminal liability. Part IV will analyze the need for substantive and procedural reform of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to adequately protect seafarers.
Megan K. Reid, Going Overboard: The Criminalization of Seafarers in Violation of Their Human Rights, Regional and Domestic Law's Conflict with UNCLOS and MARPOL, and the Need for Reform, 22 Cal. Int'l L.J. 34 (2014).