PROTECTION and Indemnity (P & I) clubs should not assume the US Congress will knuckle under and amend the Oil Pollution Act 90 (OPA 90) for better defined limits on liability, Rear Admiral Howard Gehring, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, said yesterday. Speaking at the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association, he said the issue of Certificates of Financial Responsibility (COFR) requirement will be resolved after June this year. The proposed COFR rules were first published in September 1991. A preliminary regulatory impact analysis was recently published after comments on the proposals closed on September 30. Four options were considered: Retain existing pre-OPA 90 rules. Adopt the 1991 proposed rules. Adopt the rules with an amendment to accept membership in a P & I club as an asset for self insurance. Adopt the rules with an amendment to eliminate working capital requirements and US assets requirements. Existing pre-OPA requirements will remain in effect until new regulations are finalised, Adm Gehring said. The principal under OPA 90 is ''the spiller pays''. ''The spiller pays first, the spiller pays quickly and the spiller pays with certainty. This means showing financial responsibility by having a guarantor, or by self insurance,'' he said. He also warned that vessels classed by ''inadequate classification societies'' and flags of convenience without adequate flag state controls should avoid US waters. He said substandard vessels should expect to either be turned away from US waters or detained until port state control compliance is achieved, he said. The US Coast Guard regards a vessel as substandard if the hull, crew, machinery or equipment, such as lifesaving, fire-fighting, and pollution prevention, are significantly below the standards required by US laws or international conventions. ''Substandard vessels present an unacceptable and unnecessary risk,'' he said. Adm Gehring said the US Congress had given the the Coast Guard a mandate to strengthen its port state control efforts by targeting its boarding efforts on substandard ships. As a result, the Coast Guard was moving forward with maritime reform to shift inspector and examination resources to vessels based on risk, poor history, and suspect classification societies. ''I believe responsible vessel owners, operators and managers will welcome this new direction,'' he said. ''It's bad news for the vessel operator out there looking for a quick dollar at the expense of safety and environmental concern. The goal of the Coast Guard's port state control programme was to identify and eliminate substandard foreign vessels from US waters. This programme pursued that goal through the systematic targeting of its port state control efforts on high risk and substandard vessels. Through better targeting, the Coast Guard had increased the frequency of examinations performed on those ships that present the greatest risk to life, property and the environment.