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Offshore Oil and Gas Operations

The huge oil spill caused by the blow-out and subsequent sinking of the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 prompted the EU to adopt Directive 2013/30/EU on safety of offshore oil and gas operations.86 It recognises that the risks relating to major offshore oil or gas accidents are significant and that major such accidents are likely to have devastating and irreversible consequences on the marine and coastal environment^7

To address this situation the Directive, which is based on Article 192(1) TFEU, establishes minimum requirements for preventing major accidents in offshore oil and gas operations and limiting the consequences of such accidents. More specifically, it sets out a number of general principles, including that operators shall be required to take all suitable measures to prevent major accidents and that they may not be relieved of their duties by the fact that actions or omissions contributing to major accidents were carried out by contractors.88 Offshore oil and gas operations must be carried out on the basis of systematic risk management so that the residual risks of major accidents to persons, the environment and offshore installations are acceptable. The consequences for human health and for the environment of any major accidents that do occur must be limited. (Arts 1 and 3.)

The Directive applies to activities in the territorial sea, the EEZ, or the continental shelf of a Member State. However, all companies registered in the territory of a Member State and conducting, themselves or through subsidiaries, offshore oil and gas operations outside the Union shall be required to report to the Member State concerned, on request, the circumstances of any major accident in which they have been involved. Operators and owners registered in the territory of a Member State should also be expected (but not required) to apply, as far as possible, the same corporate major accident prevention policy when operating outside offshore waters of Member States as they do when operating in these waters.89 (Arts 2 and 20.)

Operators are required to report on major hazards and to submit independently verified internal emergency response plans to the competent authorities. Operators and owners shall furthermore prepare a document setting out their corporate major accident prevention policy and ensure that it is implemented throughout their offshore oil and gas operations, including by setting up appropriate monitoring arrangements to assure effectiveness of the policy. (Arts 12—14, 17, and 19.)

Member States shall ensure that licensees are financially liable for the prevention and remediation of environmental damage caused by offshore oil and gas operations carried out by, or on behalf of, a licensee or an operator. (Art 7.) [1]

National competent authorities must regularly exchange knowledge, information, and experience. The Directive also requires early and effective public participation on the possible effects of planned offshore oil and gas operations. (Arts 5 and 27.)

Member States without offshore oil and gas operations under their jurisdiction need only implement a few of the Directive’s provisions (Art 32).

  • [1] 6 [2013] OJ L 178/66. 87 Preambular paras 4 and 6. 88 It is stated in the preamble that the risk of a major accident should be reduced to the point atwhich the cost of further risk reduction would be grossly disproportionate to the benefits of suchreduction (para 14). 89 Preambular para 37.
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