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8 Feb 2021

Cees van Dam, Visiting Professor King’s College London

Commentary: Shell liable for oil spills in Niger Delta

"Shell liable for oil spills in Niger Delta - The Hague Court of Appeal decisions of 29 January 2021", February 2021

Four Nigerian farmers and Milieudefensie (MD, the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth) sued parent company Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) and its Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) for oil spillages in the Niger Delta in 2005 (Oruma, case A), 2004 (Goi, case B), and 2007 (Ikot Ada Udo, case C)...

The main findings of the Court of Appeal are, first, that SPDC is strictly liable for the cause of the oil spills, because it could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that these were caused by sabotage (points 3 and 8 below). Second, SPDC and RDS are ordered to ensure that the Oruma oil pipeline is equipped with a leak detection system (points 4 and 5 below). The decision is breaking new legal ground, as it is the first time a parent is held responsible for a failure of its subsidiary...