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July 9, 2010

Tug boat owners fits equipment in exchange for reduced fine

A tug boat owner fined by the Washington State Department of Ecology for a 2009 Columbia River oil discharge will install equipment to prevent a similar release, in exchange for a reduced fine.

The settlement halves the original $21,000 penalty imposed on Sound Freight Lines earlier this year to $10,500 If Tacoma based Sound Freight Lines has a spill over 10 gallons in the next three years, the entire fine will become due.

Sound Freight will install an oil-water separator in the bilge of the tug Black Hawk within 120 days. Ecology determined that the tug boat discharged a mixture of oil and water that had accumulated in its bilge into the Columbia River west of Longview in January, 2009. An estimated 150 gallons of oil entered the water.

In a bilge, oil drippings from the engine can combine with water that may enter. This part of the boat must be pumped out periodically. The separator will retain bilge oil so that the pumps discharge only water.

"This settlement puts in place a system that would have prevented the original discharge," said David Byers, Ecology's spill-response supervisor. "With due care and commitment, this solution will protect against similar discharges for many years. We encourage similar measures on other vessels."

Sound Freight issued the following statement: "We are pleased to have resolved this issue with Ecology. This settlement puts into place spill prevention processes above industry standards and will keep us from being in this position in the future."

Ecology will conduct annual inspections of the Black Hawk and its oil-water separator over the next three years.


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