The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) defines the outer continental shelf as any and all submerged lands lying beyond state coastal waters, greater than three miles offshore, which are under United States jurisdiction. This law helps to codify the injured seaman’s right to bring cases for incidents that occur on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Louisiana Coast

OCSLA applies to:

1. The subsoil and seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf

2. Any artificial island, installation, or other device if

  • permanently or temporarily attached to the Outer Continental Shelf seabed, and
  • erected on the seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf, and
  • its presence on the Outer Continental Shelf is to explore for, develop or produce resources from the Outer Continental Shelf

3. Any artificial island, installation, or other device if

  • permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf, and
  • not a ship or vessel, and
  • its presence on the Outer Continental Shelf is to transport resources from the Outer Continental Shelf.

If these requirements of the “situs test” are met, the next question we ask is which law, federal or state, governs the cause of action. Applicable state law substitutes in the place of federal law for claims arising out of activity on the Outer Continental Shelf.

For state law to govern, the following three tests must be met:

1.The controversy must arise on a situs covered by OCSLA.

2. Federal maritime law must not apply of its own force.

3. The state law must not be inconsistent with the federal law.

OCSLA is an Act To provide among other things that the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act be extended to employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf In the exploration and the development of natural resources.

The pertinent parts of the law are quoted below, 43 United States Code, section 1333, subsection (b) and (c):

"(b) The United States district courts shall have original jurisdiction of cases and controversies arising out of or in connection with any operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf for the purpose of exploring for, developing, removing or transporting by pipeline the natural resources, or involving rights to the natural resources of the subsoil and embed of the outer Continental Shelf, and proceedings with reaped to any such mm or controversy may be instituted in the judicial district in which any defendant resides or may be found, or in the judicial district of the adjacent State nearest the place where the cause of action arose.

"(c) With respect to disability or death of an employee resulting from any injury occurring as the result of operations described in subsection (b) of this section, compensation shall be payable under the provisions of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. For the purposes of the extension of the provisions of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act under this section—

"(l) the term 'employee' does not include a master or member of a crew of any vessel, or on officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof or of any State or foreign government, or of any political subdivision thereof;

"(2) the term 'employer' means an employer any of whose employees are employed in such operations; and

"(3) the term 'United States' when used in a geographical sense includes the outer Continental Shelf and artificial islands and fixed structures thereon."

Definitions

The term "outer Continental Shelf" is defined in the Act, section 1331 (a), as follows :

"(a) The term 'outer Continental Shelf' means all submerged lands lying seaward and outside of the area of lands beneath navigable waters as defined in section 1301 of this title, and of which the subsoil and seabed appertain to the United States and are subject to its jurisdiction and control";

Section 1301 of the "Submerged Lands Act" defines "lands beneath navigable waters" as follows:

"When used in this chapter—

"(a) The term 'lands beneath navigable waters' means—

"(1) all lands within the boundaries of each of the respective States which are covered by non-tidal waters that were navigable under the laws of the United States at the time such State became a member of the Union, or acquired sovereignty over such lands and waters thereafter, up to the ordinary high water mark as heretofore or hereafter modified by accretion, erosion, and reliction;

"(2) all lands permanently or periodically covered by tidal waters up to but not above the line of mean high tide and seaward to a line three geographical miles distant from the coast line of each such State and to the boundary line of each such State where in any case such boundary as it existed at the time such State became a member of the Union, or as heretofore approved by Congress, extends seaward (or into the Gulf of Mexico) beyond three geographical miles, and

"(3) all filled in, made, or reclaimed lands which formerly were lands beneath navigable waters, as hereinabove defined;

"(b) The term Boundaries, includes the seaward boundaries of a State or its boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico or any of the Great lakes as they existed at the time such State became a member of the Union, or as heretofore approved by the Congress, or as extended or confirmed pursuant to section 1312 of this title but in no event shall the term 'boundaries' or the term 'lands beneath navigable waters' be interpreted as extending from the coast line more than three geographical miles into the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, or more than three marine leagues into the Gulf of Mexico;

"(c) The term 'coast line' means the line of ordinary low water along that portion of the coast which is in direct contact with the open see and the line marking the seaward limit of inland waters; . . ."


Summary:


The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA or Act) (43 U.S.C. §§ 1331 et seq.) defines the United States outer continental shelf (OCS) as all submerged lands lying seaward of state submerged lands and waters (as defined in the Submerged Lands Act, e.g., 3 nautical miles offshore) which are under U.S. jurisdiction and control. Under the OCSLA, the Secretary of the Interior is responsible for the administration of mineral exploration and the development of the OCS. The Act empowers the Secretary to grant leases to the highest qualified responsible bidder on the basis of sealed competitive bids and to formulate regulations as necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act. The Act, as amended, provides guidelines for implementing an OCS oil and gas exploration and development program.

Since its original enactment in 1953, the OCSLA has been amended several times, most recently as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Amendments have included, for example, the establishment of an oil spill liability fund and the distribution of a portion of the receipts from the leasing of mineral resources of the OCS to coastal states. In addition, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended OCSLA Section 8 to give jurisdiction of alternate energy-related uses (including renewable energy projects) on the outer continental shelf to the Department of the Interior.


Source: http://www.boem.gov/Oil-and-Gas-Energy-Program/Leasing/Outer-ContinentalShelf/Lands-Act-History/OCSLA-HIstory.aspx (last visited Sept. 12, 2012).

Where Law Applies:

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the subsoil and seabed of the outer continental shelf belong to the United States and “are subject to its jurisdiction, control, and power of disposition . . . .” (43 U.S.C. § 1332(1)). ‘Outer continental shelf’ is defined under OCSLA as “all submerged lands lying seaward and outside of the area of lands beneath navigable waters . . . and of which the subsoil and seabed appertain to the United States . . . .” (43 U.S.C. § 1331(a)).

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