The Coast Guard announced it is restricting the Norwegian-flagged Wilmina from U.S. ports for three years due to several marine environment-related offenses.
On May 4 the Wilmina was the subject of an examination conducted by officers from Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. Subsequent to the initial examination, a seafarer provided Coast Guard officials information that the vessel was discharging oily water overboard in violation of the International Convention to Prevent Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Coast Guard officers returned to the ship to conduct a follow on examination.
The examination revealed inconsistencies in the vessel's oil record book, which its crew is required to keep; inoperable oily water separator equipment, which is required to remove oil from bilge water before it is pumped into the ocean; oily sludge in the ship's overboard discharge piping and a hose used to bypass the oily water separator with flanges containing oil inside. These findings all indicated deliberate acts to violate pollution prevention conventions and laws. The examination also revealed that the master and chief engineer were unfamiliar with and failed to comply with the safety management system for the vessel with regard to reporting critical equipment casualties and maintaining records and engine room alarms, including the oily water separator alarm printouts.
An investigation is ongoing, however, initial findings indicated that the vessel was not in compliance with the port entry requirements applicable to a tank vessel when it called on the port of Corpus Christi. The Coast Guard considers these extremely serious deliberate offenses that require equally serious action to ensure protection of the marine environment and compliance with U.S. laws, treaties and regulations.
The Coast Guard has the authority under 33 United States Code 1228 to deny a tank vessel entry into a U.S. port for several reasons.
Denial of entry may be imposed when a vessel has a history of accidents, pollution incidents or serious repair problems which creates a reason to believe that the vessel may be unsafe or may create a threat to the marine environment; or fails to comply with applicable regulations under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act found in 46 United States Code 37, or under any other applicable law or treaty; or discharges oil or hazardous material in violation of any law of the United States or in a manner or quantities inconsistent with the provisions of any treaty to which the United States is a party.
"This action related to the Wilmina is a result of our ongoing efforts to utilize the full range of available tools to ensure compliance with laws meant to protect the environment," said Capt. Eric Christensen, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Vessel Activities. "Criminal prosecution is one such tool but administrative alternatives, such as banning certain ships, can be extremely effective."
On May 21, the Captain of the Port of Corpus Christi, Capt. R.J. Paulison, revoked the Wilmina's certificate of compliance and banned the vessel from returning to Corpus Christi for a period of three years. The Coast Guard's Office of Vessel Activities followed that up with today's action, notifying the owner of the vessel, Wilmina Shipping AS, that it intended to extend the ban to all U.S. ports for a period of three years. If the vessel develops and successfully implements an environmental compliance program to the satisfaction of the Coast Guard, the vessel may attempt to enter a U.S. port after one year, but the conditions will stay in place for the full three years.