The United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) is a very mature hydrocarbon basin, and it is currently beginning to experience the full complexity associated with decommissioning. The UKCS region is also subjected to what most would acknowledge is the most developed set of regional arrangements in the shape of Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR).
Notwithstanding the degree of regional agreement in relation to decommissioning, an emergent insight from the current study in the UKCS is that there are significant issues that remain unresolved, which can be categorized into four main categories:
Uncertainties of Regulatory Responsibilities
Issues Related to Cross Boundary Operations
Issues Regarding Long Term Liability
Commercial Issues Across Boundaries
This finding has implications for other parts of the world that will have to face the challenges of decommissioning in the coming years, especially where they have not yet developed regional arrangements. Perhaps most challenging in this last regard will be the South China Sea given its history of contested island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region (Buszynski 2012).
In comparison with the North Sea, the geographical make-up of the South China Sea is much more complicated and there are many more countries sharing maritime borders in the region, making these potential offshore decommissioning issues more likely to occur. It is thus important for a regional offshore decommissioning agreement to be in placed in the South China Sea region to act both as a guideline and a dispute resolution mechanism in an event that disputes were to occur during offshore decommissioning operations.
This paper will highlight the 4 emerging areas of concern (as mentioned above) in offshore decommissioning in the UKCS to suggests that the countries in the South China Sea region could usefully have these in mind as they move to develop regional decommissioning arrangements. Primary qualitative data obtained from the semi-structured interviews will be used in this paper to highlight the concerns on offshore decommissioning in the UKCS while secondary data and literature will be used to link the 2 regions together to demonstrate the need for a consideration of a development of a regional decommissioning agreement in the South China Sea region.