Coast Guard fines foreign freighter owners for ballast water violations

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(PORTLAND, Ore.) — The Coast Guard issued a $5,000 fine to the owners of a foreign freight vessel for unauthorized ballast water discharge into the Willamette River in Portland on Aug. 16.

During a routine Port State Control ballast water examination on the 590-foot bulk freighter ANSAC Moon Bear, Coast Guard marine inspectors, from Marine Safety Unit Portland, discovered that the vessel had discharged untreated ballast water into the Willamette River on three separate occasions during port calls in 2017. 

As part of the Port State Control exam, logbooks were reviewed during administrative evaluations by the marine inspectors, which led to the ballast water discharge discovery.

As part of the enforcement process, prior to the ships departure the owner was required to either pay the $5,000 notice of violation fine or provide a letter of undertaking in the amount of $38,175 as adequate surety that the owner will pay the fine assessed in the civil penalty process, up to the maximum penalty amount.

Shortly after issuance of the notice of violation fine, the company operating the vessel paid the fine with minimal disruption to the vessel's schedule.  

“Marine Safety Unit Portland effectively identified and enforced the U.S. ballast water regulations that visiting vessels are required to meet,” said Capt. Thomas Griffitts, commanding officer MSU Portland. “These regulations are essential to protecting our marine environment as untreated ballast water may pose serious ecological, economic, and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water.”

The ballast water implementation schedule is based on vessel construction dates and ballast water capacity. At this time, more and more existing vessels are entering compliance and implementation schedules that will eventually make all commercial vessels compliant to environmental preservation acts that the Coast Guard enforces. In the meantime, vessels operating in U.S. waters are subject to Coast Guard standards and the implementation schedule.

This is a recent reminder that vessels have an obligation to ensure compliance with the mandatory rules and regulations that protect U.S. waters. The purpose of the U.S. ballast water management regulations is to implement the provisions of the Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990. Violations of the U.S. ballast water regulations can result in costly delays to vessels and civil enforcement action against the vessel’s master, owners, or operators.

Marine Safety Unit Portland is in charge of safety for all vessel traffic along the Columbia, Willamette and Snake rivers and supports the $11.3 billion of international waterborne trade. Marine inspectors inspect nearly 530 foreign vessels a year in an effort to prevent environmental or public impact from invasive species unnatural to the Pacific Northwest, possible pollutants and ensure safe operations on waterways.

By Professional Mariner Staff