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ETLA: Finland could face Arctic oil compensation claims

Finland could be sued if it goes ahead with a plan to send icebreakers to Alaska to drill for Arctic oil. This is the message of a new report from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA).

Moottorivene jäänmurtajan vierellä.
Greenpeacen aktivistit nousivat Öölannin eteläpuolella Shellille vuokratulle jäänmurtaja Nordicalle vastustaakseen Shellin öljynporausta Arktiksella. Image: Greenpeace

Greenpeace has repeatedly protested at the contract Finnish state-owned company Arctia shipping signed with Shell, whose chairman is former Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila.

That agreement means Finnish icebreakers will travel to Alaska to assist with clearing ice for oil-drilling in previously pristine polar environments.

If there is an accident and oil leaks into Alaska’s fragile ecosystems, there could be compensation claims against Arctia, according to ETLA.

Its new report on the matter, which also argues that claims could be pressed against the Finnish state, as owner of Arctia, under the USA's 1990 Oil Pollution Act.

After the Mexican Gulf oil spill, claims were made against sub-contractors. However Arctia itself claims liability is limited by agreement and it would not face demands for payouts.

”This is a normal contract between limited companies, and that limits responsibility according to the polluter base principle, by which the culprit bears the responsibility,” said Arctia Shipping CEO Tero Vauraste, adding that the Finnish state had no potential responsibility for any accidents.

The state ownership steering department said that legal advice had been that no such risks exist and that liability was limited to Arctia's own assets.

The report, on the other hand argues that if damage becomes too great, then agreements to limit liability are no longer binding.

Finland's neighbour Sweden has meanwhile decided not to send any icebreakers to Alaska.

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