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Is a Stringent National Regime (OPA 90) More Effective than an International Regime (MARPOL) in the Bid to Control Marine Pollution?

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  1. 1. Is a Stringent National Regime (OPA 90) More Effective than anInternational Regime (MARPOL) in the Bid to Control Marine Pollution? Abstract LLM in Maritime Law Dissertation Vijay Hiranandani London Metropolitan University
  2. 2. Shipping is a global industry vital to globaleconomy with 85% of world trade in terms ofweight being transported by sea. Modern timesfocus on globalization, technological change andenvironmental concerns.Transporting goods by sea creates marinepollution by introduction of substances inmarine environment directly or indirectly byman. This causes hazards to marineenvironment, human health, marine activities,and harms the quality of seawater.
  3. 3. The increasing marine trade of oil and hazardoussubstances threatens marine environment, withoil pollution having the highest public profile.Environmental damage from marine pollutioncauses economic losses due to compensation toclaimants of marine casualty causing orthreatening environmental pollution.
  4. 4. These factors led to development of various nationaland international regimes to control marine pollution.This paper focused mainly on two such regimes –MARPOL & OPA.MARPOL deals with marine pollution from variousharmful substances in international seas while OPAdeals with claims for oil-spill incidents impacting orsubstantially threatening U.S. navigable waters.OPA imposes higher limits of liability and heavierfines for environmental damage. OPA’s logic is thateven minor oil spills can significantly damage marineecology with its chain reactions.
  5. 5. Researching from various stakeholder perspectives illuminatedOPA to be more effective than MARPOL in controlling marinepollution. Both regimes portray many good and difficultissues.A critical synopsis from different sources of informationrevealed that overall OPA has been more effective, by virtue ofits stringency. However, some of OPA’s aspects, such as strictliability and criminal prosecution of seafarers, have beencriticized heavily and need to be reviewed and improved.Yet, OPA provides better protection for the marineenvironment by necessitating and enforcing compliance withits provisions in order to allow tanker-trade within U.S.waters.
  6. 6. Industrialists and businesses are bound to oppose OPA’sstringency. For instance, when people comply with the law ingood faith, the threat of strict liability is unlikely to elicitimproved performance.However, such universal compliance may seem to happen onlyin the ideal instead of the real world situations. Therefore, ifstrict liability is imposed, it may not necessarily harm thosecomplying, but could help improve compliance from thoseattempting to evade the law.This calls for a balanced care from the judicial system so thatthose who comply with the law in good faith should findcompliance worthwhile without being let down.
  7. 7. Objectively, from the marine pollutionperspective, OPA’s designers have been more or lesson the right track. Apart from its detrimental effects totrade and commerce due to some of itsprovisions, OPA’s beneficial efforts to protect theenvironment and related human-health factors shouldalso be looked at.It is high time businesses and industries realize thattemporary monetary gains at the expense of harmingour environment is an insensible option for it bouncesback on humankind somewhere or the other. Lack ofcare or harm to our environment will only make ourworld a worse place to live in for ourselves and our
  8. 8. To a certain extent, there has been a lack ofinternational will to implement MARPOL. Thus, it isimperative that the international community shouldstrive hard to implement MARPOL more effectivelyand grasp OPA’s finer points to protect the worldwidemarine environment in areas of its jurisdiction.It takes a long time to build a good environment thatwill shower its benefits on humankind. However, itmay take only a few seconds during maritime spilldisasters to create havoc in marine biodiversity andrelated chain effects to human health, apart fromeconomic and livelihood losses to local communities.
  9. 9. Even from a purely economic point of view, critics shouldnote that preventing marine pollution is beneficial for overallgood instead of being careless, negligent, eludingcompliance, or intentionally harming the marine environment.Just as we cannot throw our trash into other people’shomes, ships should not be allowed to pollute local orinternational marine waters and harm others’ locallivelihoods, health and marine biodiversity.These factors necessitate the careful protection of the marineenvironment. The research concluded that overall a stringentnational regime such as the well enforced OPA has been moreeffective in controlling marine pollution than the not-so-wellenforced MARPOL.