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Oil Spill in Gibraltar Prompts Investigation

A June 8 oil spill off the coast of Gibraltar has sparked an investigation by maritime officials in the region. The incident occurred in the evening as the refrigerated vessel Frio Dolphin was taking fuel from the bunker tanker Vemaoil XX. Approximately three tons of oil were spilled into the sea during the refueling operation.

Immediately upon discovering the spill, the Gibraltar Port Authority and Department of the Environment activated the Oil Spill Contingency plan; the leak was mostly contained by the afternoon of June 9. Booms were set up to protect marinas and other harbor facilities, and every effort was made to redirect the slick from approaching the Gibraltar Special Area of Conservation and its surrounding beaches.

The quickly contained and cleaned spill strikes a sharp contrast to the disastrous May 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In that accident, an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig resulted in the death of 11 people. The subsequent spill, which could not be contained for several months, spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the waters of the Gulf, causing a marine and shore environmental disaster whose impact can still be felt two years later. Just this week, news has come that BP is hoping to reach a settlement with the Department of Justice for their criminal role in that accident.

Just days after the Gibraltar spill, the Financial Times reported that BP is hoping to reach an agreement with U.S. authorities which would allow the company to pay less than $15 billion to settle criminal and civil charges it faces in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. BP originally set aside approximately $41 billion to cover costs associated with the spill; given the funds it has already paid out, any settlement over $11 billion would likely result in the company having to raise additional cash. The Department of Justice reportedly hopes to hold BP accountable for between $20 and $25 billion. The federal government is pursuing BP for violations of the Clean Water Act, as well as other environmental laws, and several Gulf States are also pursuing claims against the company and its drilling partners.

In order to compensate the individuals and businesses who suffered real and financial losses as a result of the Gulf spill, BP has also set aside a compensation fund, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which has transitioned to a Court Supervised Settlement Program as of June 4, 2012. The new program, known as the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement Claims Administration, is still accepting new claims, even if they were already rejected by the GCCF.

Categories of covered claims include:

  • Seafood compensation program
  • Individual economic loss
  • Individual periodic vendor/festival vendor economic loss
  • Business economic loss
  • Start-up business economic loss
  • Failed business economic loss
  • Coastal real property damage
  • Wetlands real property damage
  • Real property sales loss
  • Subsistence loss
  • VoO charter payment (damages suffered by people who participated in BP's Vessel of Opportunity program)
  • Vessel physical damage

If you or a loved one is considering filing a Gulf Coast oil spill claim, the attorneys at Arnold & Itkin can help. Contact our oil spill attorneys today for a free consultation.