Illegal separator discharges – who is to blame?

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

24 August 2017


Once again the US authorities have issued details of an owner being indicted in connection with illegal discharges from the oil/water separator. In most instances, the discharge does not take place in US waters so the US cannot prosecute on these grounds but they can take action on the grounds of being presented with falsified documents – the ship’s oil record book. That is what has happened in the latest case which involves the bulk carrier *Margeurita* operated by German ship manager, MST Mineralien Schiffahrt Spedition Und Transport (MST) and owned by the KG company Reederei MS Marguerita who is also named in the indictment. The charges state that the ship presented false records on eight occasions spread over 2016 and 2017. *Margeurita* is not some end of life vessel – it was built in 2016 – and the operator has a quite extensive fleet of vessels mostly under ten years of age so it should not be expected to be categorised along with the low quality operators that one might expect to be involved in this sort of behaviour. That said the charges have not yet been proven and the operator should be allowed to be considered innocent until any conviction. While we do not yet know what the operator’s defence against the charges will be, it is usual for a rogue engineer to be blamed. However, any management company worth its salt should have a very good idea of what wastes its vessels produce and when and where they have been disposed of. As an almost new vessel when the alleged incidents began taking place, one would not expect there to be a problem with the ship’s equipment in any way. All too often it seems that owners and operators are fully aware of what is going on and indeed in many cases they must be instructing their crew to act criminally as there can be no good reason why any engineer or crew should risk their own liberty merely to save a few hundred – maybe thousands – of dollars of the owner’s money. There can be sympathy for operators given the fees that are sometimes charged for waste disposal services but there can never be a justification for criminal discharges being sanctioned by them. You can read the rules around this by downloading (link: https://shipinsight.com/guides/in-depth-guide-to-environmental-technology text: this guide).