View all text of Subchapter I [§ 2701 - § 2720]

§ 2704.
Limits on liability
General rule
Except as otherwise provided in this section, the total of the liability of a responsible party under section 2702 of this title and any removal costs incurred by, or on behalf of, the responsible party, with respect to each incident shall not exceed—
for a tank vessel the greater of—
(A) with respect to a single-hull vessel, including a single-hull vessel fitted with double sides only or a double bottom only, $3,000 per gross ton;
(B) with respect to a vessel other than a vessel referred to in subparagraph (A), $1,900 per gross ton; or
with respect to a vessel greater than 3,000 gross tons that is—
(I) a vessel described in subparagraph (A), $22,000,000; or(II) a vessel described in subparagraph (B), $16,000,000; or
with respect to a vessel of 3,000 gross tons or less that is—
(I) a vessel described in subparagraph (A), $6,000,000; or(II) a vessel described in subparagraph (B), $4,000,000;
(2) for any other vessel, $950 per gross ton or $800,000, whichever is greater;
(3) for an offshore facility except a deepwater port, the total of all removal costs plus $75,000,000; and
(4) for any onshore facility and a deepwater port, $350,000,000.
Division of liability for mobile offshore drilling units
Treated first as tank vessel

For purposes of determining the responsible party and applying this Act and except as provided in paragraph (2), a mobile offshore drilling unit which is being used as an offshore facility is deemed to be a tank vessel with respect to the discharge, or the substantial threat of a discharge, of oil on or above the surface of the water.

Treated as facility for excess liability

To the extent that removal costs and damages from any incident described in paragraph (1) exceed the amount for which a responsible party is liable (as that amount may be limited under subsection (a)(1)), the mobile offshore drilling unit is deemed to be an offshore facility. For purposes of applying subsection (a)(3), the amount specified in that subsection shall be reduced by the amount for which the responsible party is liable under paragraph (1).

Acts of responsible party
Subsection (a) does not apply if the incident was proximately caused by—
(A) gross negligence or willful misconduct of, or
(B) the violation of an applicable Federal safety, construction, or operating regulation by,
the responsible party, an agent or employee of the responsible party, or a person acting pursuant to a contractual relationship with the responsible party (except where the sole contractual arrangement arises in connection with carriage by a common carrier by rail).
Failure or refusal of responsible party
Subsection (a) does not apply if the responsible party fails or refuses—
(A) to report the incident as required by law and the responsible party knows or has reason to know of the incident;
(B) to provide all reasonable cooperation and assistance requested by a responsible official in connection with removal activities; or
(C) without sufficient cause, to comply with an order issued under subsection (c) or (e) of section 1321 of this title or the Intervention on the High Seas Act (33 U.S.C. 1471 et seq.).
OCS facility or vessel

Notwithstanding the limitations established under subsection (a) and the defenses of section 2703 of this title, all removal costs incurred by the United States Government or any State or local official or agency in connection with a discharge or substantial threat of a discharge of oil from any Outer Continental Shelf facility or a vessel carrying oil as cargo from such a facility shall be borne by the owner or operator of such facility or vessel.

Certain tank vessels
Subsection (a)(1) shall not apply to—
(A) a tank vessel on which the only oil carried as cargo is an animal fat or vegetable oil, as those terms are used in section 2720 of this title; and
(B) a tank vessel that is designated in its certificate of inspection as an oil spill response vessel (as that term is defined in section 2101 of title 46) and that is used solely for removal.
Adjusting limits of liability
Onshore facilities

Subject to paragraph (2), the President may establish by regulation, with respect to any class or category of onshore facility, a limit of liability under this section of less than $350,000,000, but not less than $8,000,000, taking into account size, storage capacity, oil throughput, proximity to sensitive areas, type of oil handled, history of discharges, and other factors relevant to risks posed by the class or category of facility.

Deepwater ports and associated vessels

The Secretary shall conduct a study of the relative operational and environmental risks posed by the transportation of oil by vessel to deepwater ports (as defined in section 1502 of this title) versus the transportation of oil by vessel to other ports. The study shall include a review and analysis of offshore lightering practices used in connection with that transportation, an analysis of the volume of oil transported by vessel using those practices, and an analysis of the frequency and volume of oil discharges which occur in connection with the use of those practices.


Not later than 1 year after August 18, 1990, the Secretary shall submit to the Congress a report on the results of the study conducted under subparagraph (A).

Rulemaking proceeding

If the Secretary determines, based on the results of the study conducted under subparagraph (A), that the use of deepwater ports in connection with the transportation of oil by vessel results in a lower operational or environmental risk than the use of other ports, the Secretary shall initiate, not later than the 180th day following the date of submission of the report to the Congress under subparagraph (B), a rulemaking proceeding to lower the limits of liability under this section for deepwater ports as the Secretary determines appropriate. The Secretary may establish a limit of liability of less than $350,000,000, but not less than $50,000,000, in accordance with paragraph (1).

Periodic reports

The President shall, within 6 months after August 18, 1990

Adjustment to reflect Consumer Price Index

The President, by regulations issued not later than 3 years after July 11, 2006, and not less than every 3 years thereafter, shall adjust the limits on liability specified in subsection (a) to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index.

(Pub. L. 101–380, title I, § 1004, Aug. 18, 1990, 104 Stat. 491; Pub. L. 104–55, § 2(d)(1), Nov. 20, 1995, 109 Stat. 546; Pub. L. 105–383, title IV, § 406, Nov. 13, 1998, 112 Stat. 3429; Pub. L. 109–241, title VI, § 603(a)(1), (2), (b), July 11, 2006, 120 Stat. 553, 554; Pub. L. 111–281, title IX, § 903(a)(2), (e)(1), Oct. 15, 2010, 124 Stat. 3010, 3011; Pub. L. 115–232, div. C, title XXXV, § 3547(c), Aug. 13, 2018, 132 Stat. 2328.)