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Confusion over stricter new liability guidelines under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 could create troubled waters for cruise lines, petroleum companies and an array of other businesses that qualify as owners or operators of tankers, cargo ships and other large vessels visiting U.S. ports, according to a maritime law expert.

Jonathan Gutoff, an admiralty law professor at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, asserts many owner-operators are in the dark about the new standards or mistakenly believe that they’ll enjoy the same limited liability under a now-outdated interpretation of OPA.

Enacted in 1990 on the heels of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska, the law affects “anyone who operates a vessel with petroleum as its cargo or its source of propulsion” and “imposes liability not just for direct property damage and personal injury but for all the economic consequences of the environmental damages,” Gutoff said.

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Phillip Bantz

Phillip Bantz is a reporter for Corporate Counsel. Follow him on Twitter @PhillipBantz.

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