46 USC 722-724 Wrecks on the Coast of Florida

Regulates the disposition of salved property on the coast of Florida by licensing vessels and masters regularly employed in wrecking.

These statutes hark back to the days when there was considerable salvage and wrecking activity on the Florida Keys and coasts. These sections were lucrative business for American salvors. The U.S. cabotage laws, especially 46 USC 316(d), treat similar matters in a more broadly applicable way.

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-380, 104 Stat. 484 (1990))

To amend the Clean Water Act to provide increased and additional liability for oil pollution of the marine environment.

(Only provisions of most interest in the context of salvage will be commented on here.) Unlike the Clean Water Act, the President is charged with ensuring effective and immediate response to a threatened or actual spill. The effect of this amendment is to make all spills "federal" without regard to the actions being taken by the owner or operator of the vessel. Thus a federal on-scene coordinator will coordinate spill (or threatened spill) response from the outset. Contains an exemption from liability for actions taken or omitted in the course of rendering care, assistance, or advice consistent with the National Contingency Plan.



Provides for a substantial increase in civil penalties and criminal sanctions.



Expressly does not preempt states from imposing additional liability or requirements.



Provides that limitation of liability under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 USC App. sec. 183-196 does not affect liability, fines or penalties imposed by OPA 90. This has been interpreted to mean that Limitation Act protections and procedures are not available in spills to which OPA 90 applies.



The salvor may be strictly liable as a responsible party in the first instance (e.g., if he is held to be the legal "operator" of the casualty or if he spills oil from a lighter that he owns or operates in the course of a response) or as a "third party" responsible party under the OPA 90 defenses to liability.

Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, 33 USC secs 1901-1911 (implementing the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL 73/78)

To implement an international convention prohibiting marine pollution from oceangoing vessels.

Permits jettison of oil or oily mixture necessary to save a ship or life at sea. This provision was limited under the pre-OPA 90 Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act) to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). OPA 90 amendments to the Clean Water Act further limit its utility by making discharges in the EEZ subject to cleanup costs and damages (but not fines and penalties). Thus jettison remains a limited option under MARPOL 73/78.

International Convention on Salvage (1989) Done at London, April 28, 1989

To modernize the international law of salvage, particularly to provide specifically for compensation for salvors' efforts to prevent or mitigate damage to the environment

The treaty has been ratified by the United States, but as of 16 December 1993 had not come into force, lacking the requisite 15 accessions or ratifications. The treaty will be self-executing when it enters into force.

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