U.S. should clarify in ratifying UNCLOS that it should not supersede existing U.S. regulations under the oil pollution act
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Although generally the United States exercises jurisdiction in accordance with UNCLOS provisions, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) is one example of the U.S. exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction and exceeding the standards in UNCLOS.6 OPA requires all ships operating in U.S. waters to be constructed with a double-hulled design.7 Additionally foreign vessels lightering in the U.S. EEZ, including “those not intending to enter United States waters,” must maintain certificates of financial responsibility if some of the oil is destined for the United States. OPA also imposes a series of additional requirements for vessels transferring oil or hazardous materials in the marine environment. Passed in response to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Prince William Sound in Alaska, OPA is a clear example of the need to protect the United States’ ability to act in the absence of adequately protective international standards.
The Senate must therefore ensure in its advice and consent that the provisions in UNCLOS do not overly limit the current authority of the United States to regulate pollution from vessels by clarifying the phrase “generally accepted international standards.” The Senate should also specify that the U.S. believes it is free to act where necessary to protect its waters where the regulated activity is not addressed by a specific international rule or standard to prevent, reduce or control its pollution.