Decommissioning—International Law and UK Government Policy
Produced in partnership with Isla Stewart of Matheson
Decommissioning—International Law and UK Government Policy

The following Energy guidance note Produced in partnership with Isla Stewart of Matheson provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Decommissioning—International Law and UK Government Policy
  • International Law—installations
  • International Law—pipelines
  • UK policy—installations
  • UK policy—pipelines

The UK’s policy on decommissioning, and its execution, is overseen by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). While the UK has policy documentation, much of this policy stems from the UK’s obligations under international law.

International Law—installations

The Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf 1958 (Geneva Convention) was the original convention that governed the law of the sea (and remains the only convention that refers to ‘removal’ of installations). The Convention was ratified by UK in 1964 by the Continental Shelf Act 1964 (CSA 1964) which vested in the Crown all rights exercisable in designated areas outside territorial waters in relation to the sea bed and subsoil in those areas.

Today, there are two fundamental international conventions that apply to the decommissioning of installations in the UK:

  1. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS)—widely accepted as customary international law and considered to have replaced the Geneva Convention (as many countries failed to implement the entire removal rule); and

  2. The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic 1992 (OSPAR)—provides a more localised approach to decommissioning in the north west of Europe

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS)

The UK acceded to UNCLOS in 1997 and Article 60(3) provides discretion to signatories for removal of installations/structures and states:

‘…Any installations or structures which are abandoned or disused shall be removed to ensure safety of navigation, taking into account any generally accepted international standards established in this regard by the competent international organisation. Such removal shall also have due regard to fishing, the protection of