Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) is the first comprehensive oil spill legislation passed in the United States. Included in the law were new provisions governing the liability and financial responsibility of both the company responsible for the spill and the insurer. These provisions, while well-intentioned, have created a dangerous situation for both the environment and the economy of the United States. This paper will examine the financial responsibility and liability regime that was in place prior to the passage of OPA 90, and the provisions of OPA 90 that establish new requirements shipowners must meet to qualify for a Certificate of Financial Responsibility. In addition, the consequent rejection of these requirements by traditional maritime insurance markets, and the new financial instruments developed to meet the specific needs of vessels trading in the United States, will be explored.