Bush Administration Backs Senate Approval Of Two Environmental Treaties

Two international maritime treaties that address oil pollution preparation and response and ship salvage operations are being pushed by the Bush Administration.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Richard J. Smith, and Adm. J. William Kime, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, supported the treaties during a recently hearing on them before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Smith said the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation will increase the protection of the marine environment principally in four categories—planning, reporting, technology sharing and cooperation.

He added that a global response coordination mechanism created by the convention will make a significant contribution to minimizing damage from major oil pollution incidents.

Initiated by President Bush at the 1989 Paris economic summit conference, the treaty enters into force when 15 nations ratify. The International Convention on Salvage 1989 will update and replace the 1910 Brussels Convention.

The new salvage convention will retain many of the elements of the old, but would make one significant change: protections of the marine environment will be a fundamental consideration, Admiral Kime said.

The following features are included in the salvage convention: • Recognition that "damage to the environment" is a significant consideration in salvage law.

•Reciprocal obligations on ship- owners and salvors to exercise "due care to prevent or minimize damage to the environment." •Recognition that a salvor's efforts to prevent damage to the environment is a factor to be considered in determining salvage awards.

•Guarantees of reasonable expenses for salvor assistance to a vessel that, by itself or its cargo, threatens damage to the marine environment.

Under current law, Admiral Kime noted that in situations involving a threat of damage to the environment, salvors have little economic incentive to conduct operations in an environmentally conscious manner because there is no means to compensate them for actions taken to prevent or minimize damage to the environment.

The treaty creates financial incentives for salvors to be environmentally conscious, he said.

Other stories from November 1991 issue


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