SA signs multilateral treaty on the civil liability for oil pollution damage


Penguin suffering from oil pollution

Thursday, 19 June 1975

On 19 June 1975, South Africa signed a multilateral treaty on the civil liability for oil pollution damage. This treaty was drawn up in Brussels, to ensure that adequate compensation was available to those who suffered damage as a result of oil spills, and to standardize international legislation regarding questions of liability.

Oil spills have been a serious environmental hazard in South Africa in the past, most notably along the Cape of Good Hope, as it is situated on one of the world's major shipping routes.

The most publicized oil spill in recent history took place in June 1994, when the Apollo Sea, a Chinese ore carrier, sank along the Cape West Coast. This caused the most expensive oil clean up of its kind (lasted four months), and led to a huge penguin rescue operation.

In light of current concern over environmental issues, this treaty served as an important piece of legislation, as it determined the extent of liability and compensation. Therefore, the treaty ensured that the funds would be made available to clean up oil spills like the one mentioned above.

• Ecolex, "Treaties: record details (return)",From:Ecolex,[online], Available at: [Accessed 9 June 2009]
• Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999) Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997. Westport: Greenwood.

Last updated : 19-Jun-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011