Recently U.S Coast Guard officers discovered a flexible hose in the engine room of a ship and a freshly painted overboard valve, indicating that illegal operations may have taken place. In the legal process that followed, it was established that false entries had been made in the ship’s Oil Record Book (ORB), which led to the chief engineer and the first assistant engineer being found guilty and sentenced.

The Coast Guard established in October 2001 the Oily Water Separation Systems Task Force to examine a wide range of issues relating to machinery and equipment used to manage oily bilge water on commercial vessels. In conjunction with this, the USCG has also launched a campaign of strict monitoring of the use of these devices on vessels calling US ports. There have been an increasing number of reports of the USCG discovering instances of oily water separators simply not being used in the discharge of bilge water. In other cases, sensitive monitoring devices had been disabled. Also, certain vessels had installed bypass piping, and other vessels routinely used the bilge pumping systems to discharge overboard.


These are not allegations, but facts since a number of Masters and Chief Engineers have pleaded guilty before the US Courts. Crews have also admitted to making false and fraudulent entries in the Oil Record Book and other records relating to the handling and discharge of waste oil and sludge. These irregularities were observed in all types of ships.


At its last meeting, ISTEC agreed to add this issue to its agenda and give it high priority. It was agreed to have two approaches on the issue:


- Develop guidelines for the correct procedure for completing the oily-water separators log, the Oil Record Book and the IOPP certificate data such as the correct volume of the engine room sludge tank

-- Investigate possible technical solutions to overcome the practical problems that cause oily-water separators to malfunction. These devices have not been requested, designed and manufactured to monitor oily-water-sludge-chemical waste mixture. This is the main reason why this equipment fails.


The USCG and INTERTANKO also agreed to consider whether aspects of this issue could be dealt with under the umbrella of the USCG/INTERTANKO Partnership agreement.


Contact: Steinar Kr. Digre, e-mail: PortsandTerminals@intertanko.com