BVI wins claim for compensation for 2006 oil spill

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) government says it has been awarded the sum of US$221,935.86 for clean-up costs as a result of an oil spill that occurred in the BVI waters in 2006.

The government said on Thursday that the High Court of Justice granted judgment in its favor in a judgment delivered on June 4 that included compensation for labor and salvage assessment costs.

The statement said it was a result of the accident that occurred at sea on Oct. 15, 2006 involving the MV Vagabond, which was owned by Caribbean Transport Ltd.

The claim for compensation was filed in court by the BVI Attorney General’s Chambers in October 2012 seeking full compensation for clean-up costs in the amount of US$251,329.76.

“The judge found that there was irrefutable evidence that the government provided services for the clean-up process and had to call on an external US-based firm to assist,” the statement said.

Senior Crown Council Giselle Jackman-Lumy and Crown Counsel Sarah Potter-Washington appeared on behalf of the attorney general. The defendant was represented by Richard Rowe of the law firm DenJen.

Jackman-Lumy said she was satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings and indicated that considerable time and effort was put in to pursuing the matter, according to the BVI Government statement.

Director of the Department of Disaster Management, Sharleen DaBreo said that the accident occurred just before midnight on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2006 while the vessel was en route to Anguilla.

“The impact caused significant damage to the vessel, and the captain and crew had to be rescued,” she said. “This required a national response under the direction of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and subsequently the activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre.

“The operations went on for days and involved a number of local and international agencies including those from the United States Government,” DaBreo added. “The Attorney General’s Chambers worked extremely hard to prepare a solid case for presentation to the High Court judge, and they were successful in their delivery.”

The director said her department has worked with several departments and private sector agencies to increase the level of awareness about oil pollution in the waters and on land, and to establish the necessary legal framework.

“We have seen the success of the public awareness and education campaigns as the number of spills have decreased significantly,” DaBreo said. “We continue to inform and educate the public about the effects that can be caused by oil spill on land and at sea.

“We offer training to build response capacity among our responders and enforcement agencies,” she added.

The BVI government said this was the first matter of this kind that has been taken to the High Court “that is said to have now set a precedent for how further claims will be handled.”

“The judgment is also a significant win for the government of the BVI and will now lead to greater focus and attention on the finalization of legislation to support the enforcement of appropriate standards to prevent these types of events from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

“The Ministry of Communication and Works has developed a draft Oil Spill Prevention and Pollution Bill that is expected to be finalized and taken to the House of Assembly for approval,” it added.

The government said oil spills are extremely harmful to marine and land-based ecosystems.

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