Two ship operators reach settlements on Vessel General Permit violation claims

Written by Nick Blenkey
EPA settles Vessel General Permit (VGP)violation claims

Compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Vessel General Permit regulations under the Clean Water Act can get complicated. Failure to comply can get expensive.

The EPA has settled with two shipping companies over claims of violations of EPA’s Vessel General Permit issued under the Clean Water Act. Under the terms of the settlements, Swire Shipping Pte. Ltd. will pay $137,000 in penalties and MMS Co. Ltd. will pay $200,000 in penalties for claims of ballast water discharge, inspection, monitoring, and reporting violations.

“EPA takes compliance with the Vessel General Permit – a key element under the Clean Water Act – seriously. It is vitally important that vessel owners and operators properly manage what they discharge into our oceans, and that they meet their monitoring and reporting requirements,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Noncompliance with the permit can seriously impact the quality of our nation’s waters, which are already challenged by port operations.”


According to the EPA, two of Singapore-headquartered Swire Shipping’s vessels cited, the Papuan Chief and the New Guinea Chief, exclusively visited the Port of Pago Pago in American Samoa. The third vessel, Lintan, has visited the Ports of San Francisco and Long Beach in California as well as other U.S. ports. The EPA says that Swire Shipping failed to: treat ballast water prior to discharging it into the ocean in a manner consistent with the compliance deadline; conduct annual comprehensive inspections; conduct annual calibrations of a ballast water treatment system; monitor and sample discharges from ballast water treatment systems; and report complete and accurate information in annual reports. The settlement includes penalties of $67,075 for the Papuan Chief, $19,906 for the New Guinea Chief, and $50,019 for the Lintan.


According to the EPA, Tokyo headquartered MMS Co. failed to: meet ballast water limitations for biological indicators and biocide residuals in discharges at U.S. ports, including the Port of Richmond in California; conduct annual calibrations of ballast water treatment systems; monitor and sample discharges from ballast water treatment systems; and report complete and accurate information in annual reports.

The settlement includes penalties of $110,509 for the St. Pauli and $89,491 for the Centennial Misumi.

The EPA says that vessel self-inspections are required as a means of identifying, for example, potential sources of spills, broken pollution prevention equipment, or other issues that might lead to permit violations. Self-inspections empower the owner or operator to diagnose and fix problems in a timely manner to remain compliant with the permit, and with U.S. federal law. Because the Clean Water Act relies on self-reporting of permittees, failures or delays in inspection, monitoring, and reporting violations are serious and undermine the permit program.

In addition, says the EPA, it is important that such discharges by ships be monitored to ensure that aquatic ecosystems are protected from discharges that contain pollutants. Invasive species are a persistent problem in U.S. coastal and inland waters. Improper management of ballast water can introduce invasive species or damage local species by disrupting habitats and increasing competitive pressure. Discharges of other waste streams regulated by the Vessel General Permit (e.g., graywater, exhaust gas scrubber water, lubricants, etc.) can cause toxic impacts to local species or contain pathogenic organisms.

EPA’s settlements with the two shipping companies resolves claims of Clean Water Act violations and are subject to a 30-day public comment period prior to final approval.

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