INTERTANKO Oil Pollution Legislation in Littoral States of the USA

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Published Date

January 2011

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INTERTANKO Oil Pollution Legislation in Littoral States of the USA

(Excludes any applicable taxes)

This publication sets out US State Oil Pollution Laws, focusing on the parties responsible, the range of claims and the potential financial liability. The publication is useful for any tanker owner trading to US ports.

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INTERTANKO published its first review of US State Oil Pollution Laws in 1993 in response to the US Oil Pollution Act 1990 (OPA 90). This book was published following the Deepwater Horizon spill and focuses particularly on the rights to limit ship liability. It has been expertly compiled by Professor Martin Davies, Director of Tulane Maritime Law Center.


















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina




Rhode Island

South Carolina





The federal U.S. Oil Pollution Act 1990 (OPA 90) specifically provides that states are not precluded from imposing additional liability with respect to pollution by oil within their territory: 33 U.S.C. § 2718(a)(1)(A). Thirty of the 50 U.S. states have a coastline on an ocean or one of the Great Lakes. Of those thirty, all but six have some kind of legislation imposing liability for vessel sourced pollution. The tables in this report describe the legal position in relation to civil liability for oil pollution in each of the thirty states.

In many instances, the state statutes do not provide complete coverage of all kinds of liability. Where there is no relevant statutory provision, the tables in this report state that liability can therefore be ‘common law only’. It should be noted, however, that it is arguable that state common law cannot apply to ship sourced oil pollution having an impact on land. The Admiralty Extension Act (46 U.S.C. § 30101) provides that cases of damage to person or property on land caused by a vessel on navigable waters of the United States fall within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. The general rule is that cases in the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction are governed by federal maritime law, not state common law, save for a few narrowly confined exceptions. As a result, it is arguable that where there is no state legislation, OPA 90 provides the only available remedy. However, claimants are entitled to bring admiralty claims in state court. It is very possible that state court judges would find a way to apply the common law of their states to provide a remedy, notwithstanding the Admiralty Extension Act.

The law is stated as of 18 November 2010.

INTERTANKO (the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners) is a trade association that has served as the voice for independent tanker owners since 1970, representing the interests of its Members at national, regional and international levels.

The organisation champions an industry dedicated to support global energy networks by delivering safe, efficient and environmentally sound transport services.

INTERTANKO actively works on a wide range of operational, technical, legal and commercial issues affecting tanker owners and operators around the world. It draws on regular and direct contact with its Members and other industry stakeholders to develop and disseminate information and best practice, essential to the tanker industry.

Title: INTERTANKO Oil Pollution Legislation in Littoral States of the USA
Edition: First
Number of Pages: 44
Product Code: WS1068K
Published Date: January 2011
Binding Format: Paperback
Book Height: 300 mm
Book Width: 210 mm
Weight: 0.14 kg

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