The Shipowners’ Club and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) have established an office in the Philippines to handle claims from a devastating tanker spill.

The 1,143-dwt Philippines-flag Princess Empress (built 2022) sank in heavy weather off Oriental Mindoro on 28 February with 800,000 litres of oil on board.

More than one-third of the cargo is reported to have escaped, polluting the coastline and affecting the fishing industry.

The vessel is owned by RDC Reield Marine Services of the Philippines.

The central claims office will be at Oriental Mindoro, with additional claims offices established in affected areas. Oil pollution has reportedly been found up to 350 km from the site of the sinking.

The Philippines is a signatory to the 1992 Civil Liability Convention (CLC) and the 1992 Fund Convention, which means the claims costs will be fully covered.

If the claims exceed the shipowner’s limitation of liability under the CLC, the IOPC’s 1992 Fund can cover the costs.

The Shipowners’ Club has also established a website to keep claimants up to date with the latest developments and clean-up efforts.

It points out that the claims office is there to collect claims rather than make payments.

The Shipowners’ Club said French oil spill response company Le Floch Depollution is mobilising local assets and personnel, deploying necessary resources within the Philippines and importing equipment.

Experts from oil spill advisory ITOPF are providing technical advice to all parties involved.

The vessel is lying at a depth of 400 metres, adding to the difficulty and cost of further spill prevention measures.

The Shipowners’ Club said it is working to source and identify appropriate contractors and equipment to carry out the pollution mitigation operations.

The spill is almost certain to become an International Group of P&I Clubs pool claim. That means the cost of claims above $10m is shared among its 12 members. It is unclear if the Philippines government will ask for a wreck removal.