International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001

Bunkering  5  low res


The International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage was adopted in March 2001. The Convention was created to ensure swift, sufficient and effective compensation to persons who suffer damage caused by spills of oil when carried as fuel in ship’s bunkers.

The Japanese Government deposited its instrument of accession for the Convention on 1st July 2020 and the condition for entry into force of the Convention was met on 1st October 2020.


Liability of the Shipowner

Shipowners will be liable for pollution damage claims caused by spills of oil when carried as fuel in ship’s bunkers. The Convention is applicable to pollution damage only. Pollution damage has been defined as:

  • A) loss or damage caused outside the ship by contamination resulting from the escape or discharge of bunker oil from the ship, wherever such escape or discharge may occur, provided that compensation for impairment of the environment other than loss of profit from such impairment shall be limited to costs of reasonable measures of reinstatement actually undertaken or to be undertaken; and
  • B) the costs of preventive measures and further loss or damage caused by preventive measures

No liability for pollution damage shall attach to the shipowner if the shipowner proves that:

  • The damage resulted from an act of war, hostilities, civil war, insurrection or a natural phenomenon of an exceptional, inevitable and irresistible character; or
  • The damage was wholly caused by an act or omission done with the intent to cause damage by a third party; or
  • The damage was wholly caused by the negligence or other wrongful act of any Government or other authority responsible for the maintenance of lights or other navigational aids in the exercise of that function

Scope of Application


The Convention is applicable to pollution damage caused in the territory, including the territorial sea, and in exclusive economic zones of States Parties. The Convention is also applicable to preventive measures, wherever taken, to prevent or minimize such damage.

Compulsory Insurance or Financial Security

The Convention is modelled on the International Convention of Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1969. The Convention enforces Direct Action which allows a claim for pollution damage to be brought directly against the insurer.

All ships over 1,000 gross tonnage are required to maintain insurance or other financial security to cover the liability of the registered owner for pollution damage in an amount equal to the limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime (not exceeding the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976). The State issued certificate must be carried on board at all times.

The International Group Clubs have agreed to issue the required Bunkers Convention “Blue Cards” to enable State Parties to issue Bunker Convention Certificates. Ships registered in a State Party need only obtain a State certificate from that State

Shipowners with ships registered in States that are not Parties to the Convention will be able to obtain Bunkers Convention certificates from a State Party whose ports or offshore facilities the ships are scheduled to visit or other willing State Parties to the Convention.

Shipowners with ships registered in non-State Parties are recommended to contact the Club to request and advise which issuing State Party the Blue Cards are to be addressed.

For more information please visit our Q&As on the Bunker Convention page. 

Alexander Geoghegan

Claims Executive