Shipping company exempted from paying damages to fishing industry for 2016 oil spill

Taiwan’s High Court today ruled that the owners of a freighter that ran aground on the north coast in 2016, causing an oil spill, does not have to pay compensation to local fishermen as there is no proof of damage to the fishery.

The TS Lines ship, TS Taipei ran aground on the coast in Shimen District on March 9, 2016, and began to break in half on March 24. The subsequent spill of heavy oil affected the coast of Shimen and Jinshan districts.

The Jinshan District Fishery Association filed a claim against TS Lines for damages to the fishery. The association claimed that the serious pollution had damaged the traditional fishery and the livelihood of its 9,146 members. The fishermen demanded compensation of NT$170 million. In November 2019, the Taipei District Court accepted the claims and ruled that TS Lines must pay the fishers a total of NT$162.53 million.

However, following an appeal by TS Lines, the High Court today found that the Jinshan Fishery Association could not prove that there was damage to the fishery, or that the spill had affected the income of the association’s members.

The judgement pointed out that the “Final Report on the Ecological Loss and Rehabilitation Assessment of the TS Lines Taipei Cargo Incident” commissioned by the Fisheries Research Institute of the Council of Agriculture, the oil spill did cause marine pollution.

However, of the 9,146 members of the association, only 177 claimed compensation for pollution affecting their fishing boats and nets. The association could not prove that their remaining close to 9,000 members were engaged in fishing activities at the time. Of the 177 claimants for pollution of fishing boats and nets, they could not prove exactly how much damage they had suffered. Furthermore, according to statistics, the output value of the fishery increased between 2015 and 2017, and had not decreased.

Therefore, based on the above grounds, the High Court reversed and dismissed the lawsuit of the Jinshan District Fishery Association, and TS Lines was not required to compensate the fishers.

The case remains appealable.

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