The Longest Journey in the World: An investigation into the liability annex and its evolution
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Human-induced harm to the Antarctic environment is not only likely, it is inevitable. This harm might be the incidental effect of activities, such as maintaining a base and conducting scientific research, or it could be the result of some form of accident. While Antarctica is considered among the most beautiful places on earth, it is also unpredictable and dangerous. The terrain and weather are particularly unpredictable, increasing the likelihood that accidents will occur. There have been several well publicised accidents involving ships in Antarctica. These include the grounding of the Bahia Paraiso in 1989 and more recently, the sinking of the M/S Explorer in 2007, spilling 600,000 litres of oil and 185,000 litres of diesel into the environment respectively.12 Paradoxically, Antarctica is as vulnerable as it is powerful. The Antarctic environmental is well known to be slow in recovering from disruption and as tourist levels swell, the number and extent of these disruptions will increase, along with the general risk to the environment. Continued activity there can only result in harm to this unique place, so it is crucial that responsibility is distributed to pre-empt it by reducing the likelihood of its occurrence and take measures to protect the environment when it does happen. It is this sobering thought that inspired the creation of a liability Annex to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. The main obligation established by the Annex is for Parties to ensure their operators take responsibility for harm they cause to the Antarctic Treaty area (south of 60° South Latitude). The Annex was adopted as a legally binding measure at the 28th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting at Stockholm on June 17, 2005 after 13 years of negotiation. It will not come into force until it has been ratified by all 29 Antarctic Treaty consultative Parties3 , at which point it will bind all Parties.4 This paper sets out to examine how the Annex has evolved through the negotiation process and what it will achieve when it comes into force. It begins by outlining the Annex in its current form and history and context in which it was developed. It then looks specifically at the substantive issues that needed to be resolved as well as the procedural challenges that slowed the process down, requiring more than a decade of negotiation. It will also discuss the future, in terms of how further guidelines might help in the Annex’s practical implementation, as well as the development of additional Annexes.