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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: October 2016

1 - Introduction


Background for This Book

The background for this research on civil liability and financial security for offshore oil and gas activities is the explosion of the mobile deepwater offshore rig Deepwater Horizon on 20 April 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico that spilled 3.19 million barrels of oil in the sea as a result. Luckily, at the place where the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred, US law applies, in this particular case the US Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90). OPA 90 does have a liability regime for offshore facilities. However, at the time, the international community realized that the international regime for oil spills focused largely on vessel-source pollution. Famous incidents with e.g. the Torrey Canyon (1976), Amoco Cadiz (1978), Exxon Valdez (1989) and Erika (1999) led to the development of an impressive international liability regime. Indeed, at the international level, a compensation regime for vessel-source oil pollution was already established in 1969–1971 by the adoption of two international conventions, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969 (also called the CLC of 1969) and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage of 1971 (the Fund Convention of 1971). These conventions went through many evolutions (in particular, the 1992 Protocols and the 2000 Resolutions) as a result of which, most important, the amounts were increased after every incident that had again challenged the financial limits on the liability of the tanker owner. In principle, the European Union relied on its Member States to ratify various international maritime conventions, but given its dissatisfaction with the measures taken at the international level through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the European Commission also started to take its own initiatives for legislation at the European level. The European Commission subsequently adopted the so-called Erika I and Erika II packages in which it, inter alia, proposed to set up a European fund (referred to as the Cope Fund) with an updated ceiling of €1 billion (instead of the €200 million that was then applicable under international conventions).