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Trinidad and Tobago

Les sancions de la UE contra les companyies d'assegurances i el risc de desastres ambientals

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Alessandro Bertoldi, director executiu de l'Institut Milton Friedman, convida la UE a revisar el règim de sancions contra les companyies d'assegurances per reduir els riscos de desastre ambiental a la llum d'un incident naval recent i un vessament de petroli a Tobago.

On the 7th of February, a critical incident unfolded off the south shore of Tobago when the vessel named Gulfstream ran aground and capsized, leading to a significant oil spill into the surrounding sea. This event quickly escalated into the largest environmental disaster in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, with the spill impacting approximately 15 km of the island’s shoreline and causing extensive damage to its coral reefs. The severity of the situation prompted Prime Minister Keith Rowley to declare a state of emergency. Divers struggled for a week to contain the leak, highlighting the country’s lack of preparedness and technical capability to handle such disasters.

The situation was further complicated by the revelation that the Gulfstream was uninsured, leading to uncertainty about who would bear the financial burden for the cleanup and compensation for the damage caused. The absence of insurance stemmed from the vessel’s lack of official registration. This incident sheds light on the broader issue within the maritime industry where vessels, especially those transporting environmentally hazardous cargoes, are expected to carry insurance. Such insurance policies, typically Protection and Indemnity (P&I), are crucial as they cover liabilities including environmental pollution and the costs associated with salvaging a shipwreck. Insurance thus serves a critical role in protecting not only the interests of third parties but also the environment by ensuring the availability of funds to address any damages.

Aquest desastre ambiental davant de Tobago posa de manifest la necessitat urgent que tots els vaixells marítims estiguin degudament assegurats. La tendència creixent dels vaixells sense assegurança es pot atribuir a les sancions internacionals imposades pels Estats Units i la Unió Europea al comerç de petroli de països com Veneçuela, Iran i Rússia. Tot i que aquestes sancions no han estat avalades pel Consell de Seguretat de les Nacions Unides, han provocat un enduriment de les provisions d'assegurances, amb pressions a les asseguradores perquè deneguin la cobertura per simples sospites.

Això s'ha traduït en una situació paradoxal en què els armadors es veuen obligats a assegurar una assegurança però amb restriccions de fer-ho a causa de les sancions. La situació és semblant a un govern que exigeix ​​als propietaris d'automòbils que tinguin una assegurança i alhora prohibeix a les companyies d'assegurances oferir pòlisses a determinades categories de conductors. Aquest enfocament no només no penalitza els objectius previstos, sinó que també afecta negativament els interessos socials més amplis.

Despite these challenges, vessels continue to transport sanctioned cargoes by exploiting loopholes, such as registering in jurisdictions with lax regulations or using outdated documents to bypass restrictions. This has led to an increase in the so-called “shadow fleet” of vessels operating without proper insurance or under dubious policies, thereby putting the maritime industry, the environment, and global safety at risk.

Recent analyses, including a report by the Atlantic Council, estimate that there are around 1,400 vessels currently operating under minimal regulatory oversight, primarily oil tankers employing various tactics to obscure their location and cargo origins. The situation has resulted in a fleet of “ghost tankers,” which, through practices like disabling their automatic identification systems (AIS), significantly elevate the risk of maritime accidents. These vessels not only evade safety protocols designed to prevent at-sea incidents but also contribute to the likelihood of environmental disasters similar to the one occurred off Trinidad and Tobago.

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The growing incidence of “ghost tankers” and the corresponding environmental and safety risks highlight a systemic failure within the international shipping industry to effectively manage these challenges. The reluctance of insurers to cover vessels deemed “dubious” due to sanctions pressure does not deter these ships from transporting cargoes, often resulting in them sailing without any insurance. This scenario underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul of maritime trade regulations and insurance practices. Without significant changes, the maritime industry is poised for further environmental catastrophes, emphasizing the critical need for more responsible governance and oversight to safeguard both the environment and human interests.

La UE hauria d'aprofundir en la qüestió i valorar la possibilitat de canviar el seu règim sancionador contra les companyies d'assegurances. Un vessament de petroli a la Mediterrània seria un desastre mediambiental del qual els europeus haurien d'assumir la responsabilitat i assumir tots els costos.

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