A Massachusetts fishing company, its managers, and the captain of one of its vessels have agreed to pay a total of US$511,000 in civil penalties and to perform vessel improvements after a US federal court found them guilty of oily bilge discharges and violations of pollution control regulations.
New Bedford-based Vila Nova do Corvo II, company managers Carlos Rafael and Stephanie Rafael DeMello, and vessel captain Carlos Pereira had been charged in the US District Court of Massachusetts in April of this year for violations of the Clean Water Act related to the operations of the trawler Vila Nova do Corvo II in coastal waters off of southeastern New England.
The complaint addresses overboard discharges of oily bilge waste from Vila Nova do Corvo II while at sea harvesting scallops and the discharge of used oil filters into the sea.
The complaint also includes a claim for violations of the US Coast Guard’s pollution control regulation related to the failure to provide sufficient capacity to retain all oily bilge water onboard the vessel.
The defendants allegedly discharged the contents of the engine room bilge, which contains a mixture of fuel, lubricating oils, water, and other wastes, into the ocean rather than retain the waste onboard.
Finally, the complaint includes a claim for violations of the coast guard’s pollution control regulation requiring dedicated piping to properly transfer oily bilge waste to a shore-side facility for disposal.
The violations were discovered by the coast guard during boarding operations.
As part of the settlement, the company and company managers will pay civil penalties of US$500,000, and the captain of the vessel will pay penalties of US$11,000.
In addition to payment of the civil penalties, the consent decree requires corrective measures to improve the operation of the vessel and prevent future discharges.
The defendants will be required, among other things, to repair the vessel to reduce the generation of oily bilge water, operate within the vessel’s capacity to retain oily bilge for the full length of planned voyages, provide crew and management training on the proper handling of oily wastes, document all oil and oily waste transfers on and off of the vessel, including documenting proper disposal of engine room bilge water at a shore reception facility, and submit compliance reports to the government.
Section 311(b) of the Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge oil or hazardous substances into or upon the waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines in quantities that may be harmful to the environment or public health.
In addition, the coast guard has promulgated spill prevention and pollution control regulations under the Clean Water Act for vessels and other facilities. Overboard discharges of oily mixtures, whether by directly pumping out oily bilge water that has not been properly treated or by attempting to pump only the portion of oily bilge water beneath a floating oil layer in the bilge (so-called “decanting”) has long been unlawful under federal laws and regulations.
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