Due to the disastrous and long term effects that oil spills can have on the environment, the U.S. federal government has established certain insurance and financial protection regulations for the shipping industry. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 increased the limits of fines, liabilities, and penalties, harshly addressing the vessel’s operator or owners for the responsibility of spill cleanup and damages.
The Regulatory Mandate
With OPA90, any vessel weighing over 300 gross tons must apply for Certificate of Financial Responsibility from the United States Coast Guard and the National Pollution Fund Center. This form certifies that the vessel has the financial means of paying for any incident that may occur with an oil spill or willful discharge.
The Persons Responsible
Though the mandate establishes 300 gross tons as a factor, any vessel that is transshipping or lightering oil within the Exclusive Economic Zone must all have a COFR registered to the owner or operator. Though it is easy to log onto the USCG website to fill out the application, most of the persons responsible for obtaining a COFR don’t have the financial resources required to satisfy the requirements. For this reason, many will turn to insurance companies for help in obtaining COFR certificates.
There isn’t a way to get around a COFR. Failing to have one can result in heavy fines, detainment, ship impounding, and denied entry.