Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


John W. Kindt

First Page



On March 16, 1978, history's worst oil spill occurred when the tanker Amoco Cadiz lost her steering and drifted onto rocky shoals off the French coast. Approximately 223,000 tons of oil were spilled, polluting and ruining over 100 miles of the Brittany coast, an area that previously had supplied one-third of France's seafood and had attracted tourists from all over Europe. Despite all this damage, only thirty million dollars was available for cleanup--none to repair the ecological devastation. Although this well-publicized accident shocked the world, it was only one of many oil spills that occurred during 1978.

By definition, "vessel-source pollution" not only refers to oil pollution from accidents at sea such as that of the Amoco Cadiz, it also encompasses pollution from several other sources. Vessel-source pollution includes any type of pollution originating from vessels engaged in navigation or transportation, as distinguished from pollutants that are discharged from ships engaged in ocean dumping. These international operational discharges, which include reballasting and tank cleaning, constitute approximately eighty percent of the world's vessel-source oil pollution. Even pollution from vessels mining the deep seabed can and should be categorized and regulated as vessel-source pollution. Toxic chemicals, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and other hazardous materials are additional examples of potential pollutants that should be regulated by vessel-source pollution legislation.

Although various pollutants are subsumed within the category of vessel-source pollution, domestic and international provisions concerning vessel-source pollution have focused primarily on discharges and accidents involving oil. This Article, therefore, will examine vessel-source pollution from the perspective of oil pollution.