Court Levies Fine on Ship Captain for Discharging Oily Bilges into the Sea

The general cargo ship, the “ALASKABORG,” has been fined by the Maritime Disciplinary Court in the Netherlands for discharging its bilges during a storm, unintentionally releasing nearly 55 cubic meters of Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) into the ocean.

The ALASKABORG departed from Baie Comeau, Quebec, on February 7, 2022, en route to Rotterdam, carrying a cargo of crushed carbon anodes. The vessel encountered severe weather off Newfoundland on February 9. At approximately 4:30 PM, the bilge alarm for the number two cargo hold sounded. Following standard procedures, the onboard engineers activated the bilge ejector pump. However, the alarm persisted, indicating the presence of fluid in the hold.

The Captain and the Chief Engineer speculated that the alarm might have been triggered by melting snow or seawater ingress during the storm. Due to the ship’s turbulent movements and seawater on deck caused by the bad weather, they decided it would be best to postpone an inspection of the tanks and continue running the bilge ejector pumps until morning.

The following morning at 8:00 AM, the bilge ejector was finally stopped, and the chief mate inspected the number two hold. He discovered that the D-rings securing the tween deck hatch had broken loose, causing the hatch to fall into the hold and puncture the ship’s fuel tank. Consequently, Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil leaked into the cargo hold and accumulated in the bilge well on the port side forward.

The continuous operation of the bilge pumps resulted in the discharge of approximately 55 cubic meters of VLSFO into the ocean.

Given the circumstances, the court concluded that the crew could not have anticipated the fuel leak into the cargo hold. However, they could have chosen to pump the unknown bilge contents into another ballast tank, although this deviated from standard procedure.

As a penalty, the court imposed a fine of $1,000 on the ship’s master and an additional $1,000 suspended fine in case of probation violation.

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