Flashback in history: Adoption of OPA 90 in USA – 18 August 1990


On 18 August 1990, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) was enacted into law in the USA.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled over 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude into the water of Prince William Sound. There were many lessons learned the aftermath of the Valdez oil spill. Two of the most obvious were:

  • The United States lacked adequate resources, particularly U.S. Federal funds, to respond to spills, and
  • The scope of damages compensable under federal law to those impacted by a spill was fairly narrow.

Although the environmental damage and massive cleanup efforts were the most visible effects of this casualty, one of the most important outcomes was the enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), which addressed both these deficiencies. The measure was adopted by U.S. Congress in near-record time (for them) following the grounding of and oil spill from the tanker Exxon Valdez.

Despite predictions of train wrecks and the threatened halting of oil shipments to US ports, its various remedial measures, including higher liability limits, double hulls on oil tankers, and oil spill response plans entered into effect over the next few years. The amount of oil entering the waters of the United States from vessels has been reduced significantly.

The legislation also served as a model for efforts undertaken elsewhere to address the oil spill problem.


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  1. On OPA 90 and the Valdez accident
    After the Valdez accident and of course the OPA 90 certain very large shipping interests , were very concerned with the possible abuse of substances and alcohol on board ship .Decisions were taken which led to the adoption and enforcement of drug/alcohol policies for high risk types of ships . As of 2017 ,basis the IMO Manila convention ,all ships must have a drug/alcohol policy . In 1993 a small drug/alcohol testing company was formed in Piraeus , now offering certified services in 110 countries and covering 1500 ports.