As modern technology continues to promote economic and social ties between States and their peoples, serious accidents arising from the negative effects and by-products of these human inventions are also increasingly taking on an international dimension. Some incidents have invoked immediate international responses while many others have simply left the victims to bear their loss. Among them, nuclear disasters, space accidents, oil spills, and contamination by hazardous substances are prime targets for international regulation. Political outcry has resulted in some legal measures on the control of technological mishaps.
Accidental transboundary damage will be the focus of this chapter. The following section will survey the existing regimes governing strict liability for certain types of accidental damage. Against the background of that legal framework, the substantive rules and principles relating to transboundary damage (e.g. the issue of attribution, the relationship between the financial mechanism and liability and recoverable damage) will be examined in detail in Chapter 3.
This chapter will focus on four areas of “typical” ultra-hazardous activities: nuclear activities, space activities, maritime oil transportation, and activities involving other hazardous substances. These represent the most topical concerns of the international community in the field of transboundary accidents. The consequences of the accidents occasioned by these activities are often formidable and unforgettable, and are among the worst disasters experienced by humankind.