USCG proposes higher offshore oil spill liability limits

The US Coast Guard proposed higher offshore oil spill liability limits under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index.

The Aug. 19 Federal Register notice also proposed a simplified procedure for the US Department of Homeland Security agency to make future periodic CPI liability limit increases for vessels, deepwater ports, and onshore facilities.

It also proposed language to clarify application of OPA 90 liability limits to two tank vessel classes—edible oil cargo tank vessels and tank vessels designated as oil-spill response vessels. The regulatory text clarification is needed for consistency with OPA 90, the notice said.

Comments on the proposals will be accepted through Oct. 20, it indicated.

The liability limit for a single-hull vessel weighing more than 3,000 gross tons would rise to the greater of $3,500/gross ton or $25.4 million from $3,200/gross ton or $23.5 million; for other tank vessels weighing more than 3,000 gross tons to the greater of $2,200/gross ton or $18.5 million from $2,000/gross ton or $17.1 million; for a single-hull vessel weighing 3,000 gross tons or less to the greater of $3,500/gross ton or $6.9 million from $3,200/gross ton or $4.3 million; and for other tank vessels weighing 3,000 gross tons or less to the greater of $2,200/gross ton or $4.6 million from $2,000/gross ton or $4.3 million.

These liability limits exclude edible oil tank vessels and oil-spill response vessels. For those and any other vessel, the liability limit would increase to the greater of $1,100/gross ton or $924,500 from $1,000/gross ton or $845,500.

Liability limits for deepwater ports subject to the 1974 Deepwater Port Act, except for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, would rise to nearly $404.5 million from $373.8 million. LOOP’s liability limit would increase to nearly $94.8 million from $87.6 million. Onshore facilities’ liability limits would grow to $404.6 million from $350 million.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management previously proposed increasing offshore oil spill liability limits under OPA 90 for facilities in federal and state waters by 78% to $133.65 million from $75 million (OGJ Online, Feb. 24, 2014).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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