The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the liability insurer of the Princess Empress (MMSI 548372700), Shipowners’ P&I Club, have decided to open a Claims Submission Office in Oriental Mindoro to facilitate the submission of claims for compensation, resulting from the sinking of the Princess Empress at the end of February while on a journey between two Philippines islands, carrying some 900,000 litres of refined oil and its own fuel.
The Philippines is a Party to both the 1992 Civil Liability Convention (CLC) and the 1992 Fund Convention. IOPC Funds said that it had been following developments and working closely with the Club and the Government of the Philippines since the incident occurred on February 28th 2023.
Shipowners’ Club has set up a web site at: www.princessempressinformationcentre.com
Clean-up and response operations were ongoing. IOPC Funds said that, given the latest information reported, claims relating to this incident might exceed the limit of liability of the insurer under the 1992 CLC. It was therefore possible that the 1992 Fund would be called upon to pay compensation.
Members of the IOPC Funds Claims Team travelled to Singapore to meet with the Shipowners’ Club during the week of March 20th. They held discussions with the Club and local P&I correspondents from the Philippines and also remotely met with the Philippine Coast Guard.
The joint Claims Submission Office will be located in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. The central office was scheduled to open this week, with other smaller claims submission offices to be opened in affected regions over the next few weeks “to allow claimants to submit their claims more easily”.
Further details about the claims submission offices will be made available via an ‘Information for claimants’ page of the IOPC Funds website, which will also include claims forms and general information about the incident and the claims process.
IOPC Funds said that it would continue to liaise with key stakeholders and to monitor developments closely. It said that it would be providing a detailed report to the upcoming session of the 1992 Fund Executive Committee in May.
The Princess Empress went down off Pola, Oriental Mindoro on February 28th. The crew were rescued safely by a good Samaritan vessel, but refined oil began to leak out of the wreck’s cargo tanks, threatening a considerable portion of the central Philippines with pollution.
The spill has since come ashore on beaches and reefs from Calapan and Verde Island in the northwest to the Caluya Islands in the south. Remnants of the slick have been detected as far away as Palawan, 200 nm to the southwest of the wreck site. An estimated 175,000 people have been affected. Thousands of fishermen remain subject to an ongoing fishing ban.
The insurers were reported to have hired French oil spill response company Le Floch Depollution (LFD), which is in the process of activating resources. Japan, South Korea and the US have already provided material assistance. Japan sent a salvage ship with an ROV. US-chartered ship Pacific Valkyrie was heading to the site with an additional ROV.
The Philippine Coast Guard has reported that the ROV inspections showed extensive damage to the ship, with half of the of the vessel’s eight tanks believed to have released most or all of their contents.