Wash. levies first fine over Puget Sound oil spill regulations
The Washington State Department of Ecology has fined Greek shipping firm Marmaras Navigation Co. Ltd. $8,500 for operating a cargo vessel in Washington waters without a state-approved oil spill readiness plan.
This marks the first assessed penalty levied by the department under a new state oil spill contingency plan rule adopted in October 2006.
WSDOE regulations require cargo, passenger and tanker vessels, oil storage facilities and pipeline companies to have an approved spill readiness plan or be enrolled in one of the two non-profit organizations with approved oil spill plans that cover vessels in the state.
A spill contingency plan identifies cleanup contractors, knows where response equipment is located, details financial means to launch a cleanup, and identifies proper notification procedures to state and federal response authorities in the event of a spill.
In May, WSDOE discovered that the Marmaras Navigation ship Theodoros P entered Washington without such a spill readiness plan. The next day, WSDOE issued an administrative order requiring the vessel to have contingency plan coverage.
On May 31, the company paid to enroll under a state-approved blanket readiness plan operated by the Seattle-based Washington State Maritime Cooperative. The fine levied against the shipping firm covers the five days the vessel operated in state waters without a spill plan in place. WSDOE could have assessed a fine as high as $100,000 a day against the shipping firm.
WSDOE said that the majority of vessels entering Puget Sound opt to enroll with the maritime cooperative. In exchange for a per-trip fee, the non-profit organization will manage a spill response situation for a vessel during the first 24 hours of the incident, including providing a spill response contractor. A similar organization, the Maritime Fire and Safety Association, provides comparable coverage for vessels operating in the Columbia River. Paying the fee to the two groups satisfies the WSDOE regulations in lieu of the development of an actual spill plan.
Marmaras Navigation has 30 days to apply to WSDOE for a fine reduction or to appeal the entire penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.