Blue cards and certification

A number of international liability regimes require ships to carry certificates attesting that insurance is in place to cover liability for pollution or wreck removal.  These are issued by their flag state authorities when satisfied that adequate cover is in force with an approved insurer.

Normally these authorities are provided with evidence of insurance in the form of a so-called ‘Blue Card’ – the name given to a certificate from the insurer to confirm that cover is in force as required by the relevant compensation regime.  The reference to ‘Blue Cards’ goes back to the 1960s and is of uncertain origin, as the insurer’s certificate is neither blue nor provided on card.

Issues have arisen and been considered on various topics including the following:

  • Change of insurer after Blue Card and certificate have been issued
  • Change to new insurer outside the International Group
  • Liability for direct claims of co-insurers – whether joint and several
  • Issue of certificates to product tankers and offshore craft which may or may not be ‘ships’ as defined by the relevant regime
  • Precise form of Blue Cards – most flag state administrations accept electronic transmission of Blue Cards in pdf format, but some have continued to insist on hard copies and other formalities
  • Precise content of Blue Cards and certificates – e.g. whether additional wording is acceptable and effective to clarify liability limit or nature of co-insurers’ liabilities
  • Issue of certificates to ships flying flags of non-contracting states
  • Approval or disapproval of insurers on grounds unconnected with financial security