The new EU Directive on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations came into force today (18 July 2013).

On 24 May 2013 we reported that the European Parliament had adopted draft text for the Directive. The Directive was then adopted definitively by the Council on 10 June 2013.

The Directive aims to ensure that best safety practices are implemented across all active offshore regions in Europe. Indeed, Günther Oettinger (European Commissioner for energy) stated earlier this week: "We call upon oil and gas companies and drilling contractors operating in EU waters to respond to the challenge to their leadership in global safety and environmental protection.” In addition, the Directive seeks to promote high safety standards by European companies operating outside EU regulated waters. For example, European companies operating overseas will be required to report any major accidents they are involved in to their domicile country.

The key provisions of the Directive include: financial liability for environmental damage; the reporting of major hazards and accidents; a requirement for sufficient resources to cover major accidents; and the independence and objectivity of authorities. Some aspects within the Directive do relate to standards and risks already regulated under UK domestic laws. However, it will need to be determined exactly which measures require modification of UK law and practice. It is, for example, anticipated that some provisions - e.g. the inclusion of environmental risks in hazard reporting and requirement for independence of competent authorities - will necessitate amendments at a UK level.

Member States will now have two years in which to adopt the required provisions of the Directive into national laws. For existing installations the transposition period will be 5 years. Member States with ‘offshore waters that do not have offshore oil and gas operations under their jurisdiction’ and ‘landlocked countries with companies registered in their territories’ will be required to transpose only limited parts of the Directive (again within two years).

To view the full European Commission press release, please click here.