Background Facts – A vessel carrying a heavy cargo of thousands of tons of fuel oil was hit by a heavy storm, broke in two, and sank, releasing thousands of tons of oil into the sea, killing marine life and thousands of birds, and polluting a reported 250 miles of coastline.
Emergency Response Issues – Crisis response issues included dealing with the immediate practical aftermath of the incident to prevent the vessel sinking and to contain the severe pollution incident.
Our Role – Reed Smith was immediately retained to create and mobilize a designated crisis command center in a strategic location. From the command center, the team coordinated all emergency response activities, from the practical handling of the cargo transfer, to wreck removal and pollution containment. At the same time, the team liaised with numerous government authorities to the pollution event and related court actions (including the arrest and release of the vessel’s Master and crew). All this activity had to be conducted while faced with ongoing pressure from government authorities, environmental agencies, marine police, and other interested parties affected by the incident.
Outcome – Reed Smith assisted the owners of the vessel and their insurers in dealing with all of the immediate crisis response requirements and the longer-term court actions arising from the wreck and resultant pollution incident. Reed Smith was engaged to assist and advise in ascertaining the cause of the casualty, interviewing crew members and witnesses on-site (contemporaneously and after the event), handling and minimizing pollution claims, and dealing with intense media scrutiny in the context of a complex and multi-jurisdictional legal framework.