Pollution of the Sea by Oil. Draft Replies of the Governments Relating to the Draft Convention


With the development of an international petroleum industry in the first part of the 20th century, pollution of the sea by oil became a matter of international concern. In July 1934 the government of the United Kingdom raised this issue in a letter to the secretary-general of the League of Nations, after a campaign by several civil society organizations raised awareness of the damage and threats to maritime industry, tourism, and wildlife. In November 1934 the Council of the League authorized the League’s Communications and Transit Organization to create a committee of experts to study the possible establishment of legal limits on the discharge of excess oil or water bilge into the ocean by vessels of League member states. The experts recommended the adoption of an international convention. The Council endorsed this recommendation and instructed the committee, working with the secretary-general, to ascertain the views of interested states on the proposed convention. Member states were asked to comment on the various resolutions on oil pollution at sea adopted by the League, to state whether they were interested in participating in a conference to draft a convention, and to give their views on two technical questions relating to the size of the ships covered by the convention and the types of oil carried by such ships. This report, from the archives of the League, contains the replies of 29 governments (including that of the United States, which was not a member of the League), to the questions posed by the League. The document is preserved in the archives of the League, which were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Last updated: August 5, 2016