On 19 November 2015 the US Coast Guard published a Final Rule increasing the liability limits for vessels, deepwater ports and onshore facilities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90).
These periodic adjustments are required by law in order to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and preserve the “deterrent effect and ‘polluter pays’ principle embodied in OPA 90.”
For double-hull tank vessels greater than 3000 gross tons, the new limits are the greater of USD2,200 per gross ton or USD18,796,800.
For non-tank vessels, including vessels carrying edible oil and oil spill response vessels, the new limits are the greater of USD1,100 per gross ton or USD939,800.
The limit of liability for deepwater ports (other than the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port or LOOP) and onshore facilities is now USD633,850,000.
The OPA 90 financial responsibility requirements are automatically updated when the limits of liability are adjusted for inflation.
Although as of 1 January 2015 single-hull tank vessels can no longer operate in US waters, OPA 90 continues to specify limits for single-hull tank vessels and the Coast Guard will continue to adjust those limits for inflation.
The new limits for single-hull tank vessels greater than 3,000 gross tons are the greater of USD3500 per gross ton or USD25,845,600.
The Final Rule clarifies that a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) that is not “constructed or adapted to carry, or carries, oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue” is not subject to the single-hull tank vessel limits of liability, but is instead subject to the lower limits applicable to double-hull tank vessels.
The OPA 90 liability limits for offshore facilities are adjusted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, created after the Deepwater Horizon incident. The current limit is all removal costs plus USD133.65 million.