International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties

General Detail

General Information

  1. Type: Convention
  2. Date of signature:
  3. Place of signature: Bruxelles, Belgium
  4. Depositary:
  5. Date of entry into force: 06/05/1975


Environment and products

Sub category

Maritime and Law of the Sea



What is it about?

Parties to the present Convention take measures on the high seas to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to their coastline or related interests from pollution or threat of pollution of the sea by oil, following a maritime casualty or acts related to such a casualty. A "maritime casualty" means a collision of ships, stranding or other incident of navigation, or other occurrence on board a ship or external to it resulting in material damage or imminent threat of material damage to a ship or cargo. The Convention of 1969 recognizes the right of all State parties to take necessary measures to prevent, mitigate or eliminate maritime pollution. This right of intervention is nevertheless subject to established procedures to ensure that coastal States does not compromise the interests of individuals or corporate entities, or other States. Before taking any measures, a coastal State must proceed with consultations with other States affected by the maritime casualty, particularly with the flag State or States. The coastal State must also notify without delay the proposed measures to any persons physical or corporate known to the coastal State to have interests which can reasonably be expected to be affected by those measures. Additionally, the coastal State shall take into account any views they may submit. The coastal State may also proceed to a consultation with independent experts, whose names shall be chosen from a list maintained by the International Maritime Organization. Measures taken by the coastal State shall be proportionate to the damage actual or threatened to it. The provisions of the Convention of 1969 do not apply to warships or to ships used in non-commercial government service. The 1973 Protocol extends the provisions of the 1969 Convention to substances other than oil (such as chemical products, liquefied gas and radioactive materials). The list of substances and materials was enlarged by the amendments of 4 July 1991 and 10 July 1996.

Why is it relevant?

The Convention of 1969 provides State parties with tools to protect their coastlines against pollution by oil threatening their fishing, tourism and public health interests. It also establishes guidelines for State parties concerned by a ship in distress (flag state, ship owners).

Additional Information

An arbitration procedure is established for dispute settlement. In 2003, 78 States representing more than 60% of world tonnage had ratified the present Convention.

  • Protocol to the International Convention relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (London, 2 November 1973)
  • International Convention on Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, with Annex (London, 30 November 1990)


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