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Marine Log

May 12, 2008

Bunkering spill brings $27,500 penalty

The owner of a cargo ship that spilled bunker oil in Seattle's Elliott Bay last year has paid a $27,500 penalty to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

A Department of Ecology announcement says that the bulk carrier Songa Hua--operated by OSM Ship Management (OSM) of Singapore--spilled an estimated 93 gallons of intermediate fuel oil on Feb. 28, 2007. The ship was anchored off Smith Cove, about a half-mile south of the Port of Seattle's Pier 91.

An overflow occurred while the Songa Hua was loading fuel from a barge. Department investigators later determined that ship's crew caused the spill by:

Failing to follow established procedures to monitor the fueling operation.

Making faulty repairs to a fuel tank valve, without proper oversight.

Failing to give special attention to the valve, because it was being used for the first time since its repair.

The Department says the crew also failed to immediately report the spill, as required by state law.

"The best oil-spill defense is prevention," said Dale Jensen, who manages the Department's spill prevention, preparedness and response program. "Washington State requires detailed planning before and attentive care during each marine fuel transfer. Crews have to meet those requirements every time they transfer fuel over water."

The spill caused areas of oil sheen within approximately 90 acres of northern Elliott Bay. The sheen coated bulkhead rocks at Elliott Bay Marina and pilings under Pier 91. Cleanup took six days to complete.

OSM bore all cleanup contractor costs. The company last year also reimbursed the state $11,139 for response and investigation costs, and paid a $1,855 Natural Resources Damage Assessment. Ecology deposited the penalty and assessment payments into accounts that fund the department's chartered Neah Bay emergency response tug.

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