• Vessel Interests Obtain Limitation of Liability Under Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for Claims Relating to the M/V SELENDANG AYU Oil Spill
  • February 9, 2012 | Authors: Douglas R. Davis; Herbert H. Ray
  • Law Firm: Keesal, Young & Logan A Professional Corporation - Anchorage Office
  • The National Pollution Funds Center has granted the petition of the owners and operators of the SELENDANG AYU to limit their liability for claims and damages under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.  The SELENDANG AYU was a Panamax bulk carrier on voyage from the U.S. West Coast to Asia, when it suffered an engine casualty in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska in December 2004.  The vessel was driven aground by a fierce winter storm, broke in half, and discharged nearly 350,000 gallons of bunker and diesel fuel into the ocean.  Tragically, six of her crew died when a rescue helicopter lifting them from the stricken vessel crashed into the ocean. The vessel and her cargo were lost.

    Keesal, Young & Logan has represented the owners and operators of the vessel since the incident began in December 2004, and submitted a petition to limit their liabilities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.  In a decision dated January 27, 2012, the National Pollution Funds Center granted the petition to limit liability.  It concluded that the vessel interests had carried their burden of proving that the incident was not the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct, or the violation of applicable United States statutes or regulations, and further, that owners and operators provided cooperation and assistance in response activities following the spill.  In reaching its decision, the NPFC closely examined evidence relating to the engine casualty, the subsequent inability to restart the engine, and the failed efforts to salvage the vessel before it was driven aground.

    As a result of the NPFC’s decision, the owners and operators of the vessel will be entitled to limit their liabilities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.  The decision will result in a substantial recovery by the owners and operators, their P&I Club, the International Group of P&I Clubs, and their reinsurers, of amounts expended over the limitation amount.