Canadian shipping company pleads guilty in US court for 2017 wastewater discharges

Algoma Strongfield (Photo: Algoma)

Canadian shipping company Algoma Central Corporation has been fined US$500,000 after pleading guilty in the US Court for the Western District of New York to dumping wastewater into Lake Ontario during the delivery voyage of one of its vessels in 2017, the US Department of Justice said in a recent statement.

The vessel mentioned in the charges against Algoma is the bulk carrier Algoma Strongfield. Built in China, the vessel was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Redwise Maritime Services, a vessel transport company based in the Netherlands.

During Algoma Strongfield‘s delivery voyage, and while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water.

On May 5, 2017, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the ship’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean. The wash water tank was intended to store deck and cargo hold wash water and is not listed on the ship’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate.

Between May 5, and the ship’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank to avoid overboard discharges of untreated bilge water.

On May 19, as Algoma Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel and remained on board until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of chief engineer. On May 30, the ship arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, where the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew.

Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.

On June 6, the ship was transiting Lake Ontario. While in the waters of the United States within the Western District of New York, the third officer on board the ship requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the captain approved the discharge.

Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the third officer and the captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons (45,000 litres) of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario.

The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the third officer and captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately.

After the incident, Algoma contacted Canadian and US authorities to report the discharge.

In addition to the fine, Algoma was put on probation for a period of three years during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan.

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