Prosecution of Maritime Environmental Crimes Versus OPA-90's Priority for Response and Spill Prevention: A Collision Avoidance Proposal

This Article examines, first, the effect that increased use of criminal prosecutions in maritime environmental matters is having on civil litigation spawned by environmental incidents and the governmental investigations regarding the cause of such incidents. Mariners face a dilemma when confronted with the obligation to report and cooperate because, at the same time, prosecutors may use this very evidence against them. Secondly, the Article examines the legislative history of OPA-90 and other laws to establish that Congress has clearly given clean up of the environment and prevention of future maritime environmental casualties priority over criminal prosecutions. Further, the Article argues that current enforcement policies run counter to explicit congressional policy. The Article concludes with a review of current congressional efforts to deal with aspects of the conflict and puts forward a comprehensive proposal to reconcile the priority Congress has given response and prevention with the use of criminal sanctions as an appropriate enforcement tool.