Decision ID: 001285
In October 1996 the 1971 Fund Executive Committee noted that the French Government had brought legal action against the shipowner and his insurer in the Court of first instance in Basse-Terre (Guadaloupe) claiming compensation for clean-up operations, but that the 1971 Fund had intervened in the proceedings and acquired by subrogation the French Governments claim, as result of which the French Government had withdrawn from the proceedings. It was noted that in a judgement rendered in 1996 the Court had held that the 1969 Civil Liability Convention was not applicable, since the Vistabella had been flying the flag of Trinidad and Tobago, which was not a Party to that Convention, and instead the Court applied French domestic law. It was also noted that the Court had accepted that, on the basis of subrogation, the 1971 Fund had a right of action against the shipowner and a right of direct action against the shipowner’s insurer, and although it had awarded the Fund the right to recover the total amount which it had paid for damage in the French territories, it had held that it was not competent to consider the Fund’s recourse claim for damage caused in the British Virgin Islands. The Committee considered that the judgement by the Court was wrong on two points in that firstly, the 1969 Civil Liability Convention, which formed part of French law, applied to damage caused in a State party to that Convention, irrespective of the State of the ship’s registry, and secondly, that the French courts were competent under Article IX.I of the Convention to consider claims for damage in any State party. The Committee decided, however, that since the Court’s decision regarding the applicability of the Conventions would hardly have any value as a precedent in other cases, and since the Court had awarded the Fund the total amount paid by it for damage in the French territories, and in view of the insignificant amount paid by the Fund for damage outside these territories, the Fund should not appeal against the judgement. The Committee noted that the shipowner and the insurer had appealed against the judgement on the basis that the French courts had no jurisdiction over foreign insurers.