Oil pollution at sea

Harbour masters possess wide powers of direction over ships giving rise to potential pollution problems, but deliberate misuse of such powers could render them liable to damages. This analysis by the Scottish Court of Session (Outer House) in Micosta SA v Shetland Islands Council ((1984) 2 Lloyd's Reports 525) is not binding on English courts, but is an approach likely to be followed, and the case is therefore of considerable importance.

In February 1980 the oil tanker Mihalis was chartered to take on a cargo from the Sullom Voe terminal in the Shetlands. The tanker had arrived off the harbour and tendered notice of readiness when the harbour authority, Shetland Islands Council, while carrying out regular aerial surveillance, spotted oil in her wake.

Inspections were made but the ship's owners and master denied that it had caused the pollution, and there followed several

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