On 1 January 2016, the new Dutch Maritime Accident Control Act (Wet bestrijding maritieme ongevallen, WBMO), entered into force. The new act replaces the North Sea Accident Control Act (Wet bestrijding ongevallen Noordzee, Wet BON) and provides for the implementation of the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (2007) in the legislation of the Netherlands.

The Nairobi Convention provides the legal basis for coastal states to quickly and adequately remove ship wrecks from their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Convention stipulates that the shipowner is primarily responsible for the removal of the wreck. If the shipowner does not comply with its removal obligation, the affected coastal state can take action. The costs of removal are for the account of the shipowner, who has a strict liability in this regard.

An important aspect of the Convention regime is that shipowners have the obligation to take out insurance for the aforementioned strict liability. The compulsory insurance applies to ships with a gross tonnage of 300 and upwards. The amount of the compulsory insurance is linked to the liability limits provided in the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC 1976, as amended by the protocol of 1996).

The Convention regime is incorporated in the new Act. The most important provisions of the Act include those with regard to the obligation to report wrecks, the localization and removal of wrecks, as well as the liability of the shipowner and compulsory insurance.

The provisions of the Convention itself principally apply only within the EEZ. However, the rules of the new Act also apply to the Dutch territorial sea and inland waterways. Furthermore, the Act governs situations where a ship, although not a “wreck” within the definition of the Convention, is a potential danger for (for example) shipping traffic or the marine environment.

Although the intention was for the Convention and the new Act to enter into force at the same time, the Nairobi Convention is not yet in force for the Dutch jurisdiction. In order for the Convention to enter into force, advance notice of three months needs to be given to the IMO. To our knowledge, in the beginning of January such notice was not yet given, which means the Convention will not come into force for the Dutch jurisdiction before about mid-April of this year.