Thursday, 26 May 2022

Kishore Vaangal*

Legal Status of Offshore (Deep-Water) Oil Rigs: Coastal State Jurisdiction and Countering Oil Spills Threats

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Suggested citation:

Vaangal, K. (2021). Legal Status of Offshore (Deep-Water) Oil Rigs: Coastal State Jurisdiction and Countering Oil Spills Threats. Lex Portus, 7(5), 42–68.

*PhD, Alagappa University (Karaikudi 630003, Tamil Nadu, India)



This research aims to assess and find possible ways to improve the international legal framework to exercise state jurisdiction to prevent pollution from offshore oil rigs. In effect, the paper analyzes the legal status of offshore rigs to provide for the necessary jurisprudential, geo-political, and energysecurity dimensions. While doing so, the pertinent provisos (sections) of all the international conventions relatable to offshore oil & gas production have been examined. The study has found that the legal status of offshore rigs is not clear in international law, and as such, it concludes that the 1982 UNCLOS convention has addressed specific issues, albeit not in an extensive way. The extant international regulations for the protection of offshore oil rigs have not been effective, even in cases of allision and collision. Right from the legal status of offshore rigs to security zones, they have been debated much and have been the subject of dispute for over 40 years. There are specific and pivotal jurisdictional issues in matters to do with the location of oil rigs in the high seas, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, which has proved to be an area of contention. The Legal status of offshore rigs has become a source of much disagreement in International Law. There are fundamental questions about whether a type of rig could be considered a ship under national and international law. Should an oil rig be considered a ship, some international law rules relatable to ships, such as the law of flag, allision, collision, and pollution, would become applicable in equal verve to oil rigs as well? As a natural corollary of those above, a query would come up: how else can oil rigs be classified? Traditionally, oil rigs, offshore installations, artificial islands have been dubbed to be part of one category. A meticulous examination of the legal status of offshore rigs would reveal that it is one of the most contumacious and troublesome areas of International Law. The aforementioned is significant because there are many practical and legal consequences, given specific situational dictates. Indeed, the legal status could directly impact issues with the jurisdiction a state may have in matters relatable to the exercise of the states’ legal prowess over offshore rigs, and the applicability of certain maritime law principles and rules centric to offshore rigs need to be studied astutely. As an indicative archetype, should an offshore rig be located at an exclusive economic zone, it could be considered a ship in the eyes of the law, and hence, the flag state would have exclusive jurisdiction over it. Nonetheless, the coastal state would have exclusive jurisdiction if it were considered an installation. Quintessentially, the legal status of offshore oil and gas rigs would determine the rights, duties, and obligations of the different states, and hence the subject could throw up some complicated issues.

The key words: offshore oil rigs, security, legal status, pollution, jurisdiction, UNCLOS.



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Editorial Board Address

Ukraine, Odesa, Fontanska Doroga, 23
National University “Odessa Academy of Law”,
Department of Maritime and Customs Law