Adjudication without Frontiers
Edited by Horatia Muir Watt, Lucia Bíziková, Agatha Brandão de Oliveira and Diego P. Fernandez Arroyo
Chapter 5: By-passing sovereignty: Trafigura lawsuits (re Ivory Coast)
The Trafigura case concerns corporate liability related to environmental damage in a transnational setting, which raises questions of ethical responsibility of multinationals. The main lawsuits took place in Ivory Coast, in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands. In late 2005, a multinational trading company called Trafigura decided to buy large amounts of an unrefined gasoline in order to use it as a blendstock for fuels. The process of refining this product is known as caustic washing and it was carried out on a ship named Probo Koala. The company knew beforehand that the resulting chemical waste would be difficult to treat or dispose of. On 19 August 2006, Probo Koala unloaded the waste shipment at open-air sites at Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Soon afterwards, according to the allegations in this case, the people living near the discharge sites began to suffer from a range of illnesses. Subsequently, at least 100,000 sought medical attention for conditions which were attributed to the presence of toxic waste and a considerable number of people died. In November 2006, the High Court of Justice in London agreed to hear an action by some 30,000 claimants from the Ivory Coast against Trafigura. Trafigura denied responsibility, claiming that the substances were standard waste from onboard operations of ships that were entrusted to an Ivorian disposal company.
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