The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) set a new course for the United States with respect to oil spill liability and compensation. For 15 years preceding the passage of OPA 90, the United States sought to become party to the international regimes. A 1984 international conference was held at the request of the United States, to modify provisions of existing conventions. Passage of OPA 90 rejected those efforts and implemented a more comprehensive and farther reaching regime. Structurally, the regimes are similar, yet they are far apart with respect to key issues of levels of liability, ease with which those limits may be broken, and scope and extent of compensable damages. The issue examined is whether they must remain so far apart and whether there is a mechanism to bring them back together.

The views presented in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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