her remaining cargo; and to provide procedures whereby such action may be authorized and undertaken.

Such an amendment would resolve much of the uncertainty as to salvor liability and immunity by making the act of jettisoning an authorized and viable option in response to the threat of a catastrophic oil spill. This change also would limit owner and operator liability for the salvor's actions. Such an amendment probably would not protect a salvor against liability under state laws. However, most state statutes require either consistency with the NCP or at least the absence of conflict. Therefore, if in addition to consulting with the states as required by federal law, the FOSC obtains concurrence from the state incident commander consistent with the NCP, there is a possibility that immunity also could be obtained under state laws.

A related issue concerns certain common salvage practices that also could be considered forms of jettisoning, in that some oil may be discharged. These actions include pumping out a flooded engine room, pressing down of dirty ballast tanks, expelling water from a flooded cargo or fuel tank, using compressed air to press out damaged tanks, displacing oily water with buoyant material, and operating on-water skimmers. The committee concludes that a salvor should be afforded protection to use these tools under certain limited conditions. The committee therefore recommends:

The NCP should be amended to give the FOSC explicit authority, in consultation with the appropriate state authority, to approve certain common salvage actions that may result in incidental discharges of small quantities of oil. Such actions include pumping out a flooded engine room, pressing down of dirty ballast tanks, expelling water from a flooded cargo or fuel tank, using compressed air to press out damaged tanks, displacing oily water with buoyant material, and operating on-water skimmers. The FOSC authority could be contained in approval of the daily work plan, which, if carried out under the UCS, also could be approved by the state.

The committee further concludes that the present lack of official, objective criteria for reaching a technical decision to jettison oil may undermine decision making during salvage situations. Such decision making needs to be logical, timely, reliable, and defensible, and the FOSC needs to be diligent in analyzing the relevant issues. The committee therefore recommends:

The Coast Guard should develop a checklist containing specific conditions that must be met as prerequisites for a decision to jettison oil. The FOSC should follow the checklist in authorizing such action under the NCP. Responder conformance with the checklist and with an FOSC decision authorizing the jettisoning of cargo should ensure full protection against liability for a salvor who jettisons oil.

Such a checklist might include the following criteria:

  • Time pressures demand immediate action.

  • Discharge of the proposed amount of oil is likely to save the ship and the remaining cargo.

  • All other salvage options, such as internal cargo transfer and lightering, have been exhausted.

  • Failure to jettison is likely to lead to loss of the ship and the remaining cargo.

  • The condition of the stranded vessel is adequate so that the ship probably can be refloated and the remaining cargo saved.



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