The lack of an effective means of preventing oil pollution of the oceans is largely the result of international legal principles which ensure the free use of oceans. Compounding the problem is the fact that flag of convenience registry effectively insulates from regulatory control most vessels that pollute on the high seas, and results in the degredation of the marine environment. Flag of convenience ships are responsible for most operational oil pollution in the high seas which, rather than traumatic oil spills in coastal areas, poses the greatest threat to the environment. Conventions on the high seas currently in force concentrate on pollution that occurs within the jurisdictional limits of a coastal state. These conventions do not establish penalties for pollution on the high seas when there is no direct impact on the interests of a particular state.
Barney T. Levantino,
Protection of the High Seas from Operational Oil Pollution: A Proposal,
6 Fordham Int'l L.J. 72
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol6/iss1/3