Toxic Torts - the Probo Koala

In 2006 the Panamanian flagged, Greek managed, dutch chartered tank ship called in at Amsterdam with...full story at Wiki and Der Spiegal

As a result of what appears to be a significant environmental disaster, London solicitors Leigh Day have instituted a class action on behalf of 5000 Ivory Coast citizens claiming £100m damages, the claim based on negligence and nuisance. The English coursts have prima facie jurisdiction becasue the Dutch charterers have an office in London.

The Defendants have commenced proceedings against Martyn Day, the solicitor involved, for libel.

Greenpeace have a news item...

The Charterers position...

Leigh Day's position...

Note that the Charterers strenuously refute liability, and that two of their executives are being held, and allegedly mistreated, in an Ivorian jail. Their case is that the slops were legally disposed of, and what happened subsequently is not their responsibility. Note that under the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 their is a duty of care in waste management to ensure legal disposal of waste. Whilst the Act does not appy in Abidjan, it does set persuasively legal standards of care.

This case, and others, have been characterised as "toxic imperialism". In legal terms, the Basel Convention is supposed to control the issues. The UK has ratified the Convention - the US has not. Why does that not surprise anyone.

But what can the Convention actually achieve? This document shows what the Secretariat to the Convention is doing. Emergency assistance of about USD11million has been given.

Greenpeace has written an interesting article which summarises the legal position.

An organisation called Earth economics, based in Seattle, has started the Basel Action Network. This is an informative resource.

The problem with the regulations is, as ever, enforcement. Much of shipping is containerised, and the only practical method of checking is documentary. So if I wanted to scam it, I could set up an electronic waste company, get paid to recycle/reuse waste from companies - but simply send all the broken items by container to Port Appapa in Nigeria - with 10% "working" computers - and describe the consignment as second hand computers for re-sale. See a BBC news item...

Note that the Basel convention does not cover radio-active wastes. such waste is covered by the Convnetion on Nuclear Safety and several EU Directives.