Washington Fines Greek Shipper Without Oil Spill Readiness Plan

OLYMPIA, Washington, August 29, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology has levied an $8,500 fine against the Greek shipping firm Marmaras Navigation Co. Ltd. for operating a cargo vessel in Washington waters for five days without a state-approved oil spill readiness plan.

The Department of Ecology could have levied a fine up to $100,000 a day.

The penalty against Marmaras Navigation marks the first time Ecology has levied a fine under its new oil spill contingency plan rule adopted in October 2006.

The agency requires that cargo and passenger ships, tank vessels, oil storage facilities and pipeline companies demonstrate that they can mount an effective, timely response if they spill oil.

Under the rule, the vessel must either have their own approved spill readiness plan or be enrolled in one of the two non-profit organizations with approved plans that cover vessels in Washington.

A spill contingency plan assures that if a regulated vessel or facility spills oil, the company has identified its cleanup contractors, knows where response equipment is located, possesses the financial means to launch a cleanup, and knows how to make timely and proper notification to state and federal response authorities if a spill occurs.

Ecology discovered that the Marmaras Navigation ship, M/V Theodoros P, entered Washington waters on May 26 without a spill readiness plan. On May 30, Ecology issued an administrative order requiring the Theodoros P to have contingency plan coverage.

The next day, the company paid to enroll under a state-approved blanket readiness plan operated by the Seattle based Washington State Maritime Cooperative.

Linda Pilkey-Jarvis oversees statewide oil spill preparedness activities for Ecology. She said the fine was based on the five days the ship was in Washington waters without coverage.

"Preventing spills is our highest priority, and we expect the same from the vessels that we regulate," Pilkey-Jarvis said. "But if a spill occurs, shipping companies must be ready to respond quickly and effectively. Puget Sound and all Washington waters deserve that level of vigilance."

The majority of vessels entering Puget Sound enroll with the Maritime Cooperative. In exchange for a per-trip fee the non-profit organization will manage the spill response 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.

Marmaras Navigation may apply to Ecology for a penalty reduction or appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.