Australia introduces penalties for pollution

In an effort to increase enforcement of MARPOL and reduce deliberate oil discharges into the sea, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has increased penalties and fines for offences of this nature. In addition, following a recent court case involving a ship borne pollution incident, AMSA has now made it clear that the defence of ‘accidental pollution’ resulting from worn or deteriorated equipment will no longer be accepted.

AMSA is working closely with the Australian Federal Police to prosecute deliberate efforts to by-pass machinery space oily water separators in an effort to discharge this waste directly overboard. AMSA’s PSC inspectors will now have the power to detain a ship if they suspect that the oily water separator is being improperly used. The detention will be maintained to allow time for the inspectors to investigate further. AMSA’s surveyors will therefore be looking closely for any indications that oily water separators are being bypassed. Further attention will be given to the Oil Record Book, the oily water separator, its pipe work, flanges and associated areas, including wear patterns indicating removal of fittings or fresh painting to cover patterns of this nature.

As well as increasing the maximum fine levied against the Master and the ship owner to AUD 220,000, prosecution will also be brought against any crew member.

In the case of ‘accidental pollution’ as defined in MARPOL, the new ruling will tighten the use of this clause as a defence when oil is discharged as a result of deteriorating equipment due to poor maintenance and when defects develop during the normal operation of the ship or equipment.

AMSA has also increased control over the use of reception facilities, allowing the PSC inspectors more power when waste is being discharged ashore. In this instance the inspectors will be able to dictate how much waste should be discharged based on several factors such as the size of the holding tanks, likely waste production between now and next port of call, and capacity on board for handling waste, e.g. incineration equipment.

Click here for further information on this legislation in AMSA’s Marine Notice 09/2003.

Contact: Tim Wilkins