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Fish Factory Vessel Leaking Ammonia in Tacoma

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

August 16, 2023

(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

A 77-year-old fish factory vessel with a checkered history is reportedly leaking ammonia in Tacoma, Wash.

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday it is responding to the incident on board the U.S.-registered Pacific Producer, a 169-foot-long seafood processing vessel with a long string of health, safety and labor violations.

Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology crews in HAZMAT suits are currently working to locate leak. The vessel poses no immediate threat to the public, and air quality is being monitored, the Coast Guard said.

Ammonia is commonly used for refrigeration aboard commercial fishing vessels, particularly those that freeze or process their catch on board.

Pacific Producer usually works in the Alaskan fishing industry but has been docked on the Foss Waterway in Tacoma for about a year following a number of serious incidents and violations.

After opening an investigation in July 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in February this year cited the vessel's operator, Seattle-based East West Seafoods, and owner, Christos Tsabouris, for 20 violations and proposed $208,983 in penalties.

OSHA and Coast Guard inspectors found unsanitary conditions and dangerous electrical hazards throughout the vessel, as well as no fire suppression system as required. In 2012, 2014 and 2018, OSHA inspections identified similar sanitation, electrical and fire hazards, and other dangers related to a lack of lockout/tagout, machine-guarding and fall protections, and a 2018 ammonia leak.

In addition to OSHA’s actions, the Coast Guard invalidated the Pacific Producer’s certificate of compliance, halting the employer’s continued operations until repairs are made.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice found East West Seafoods intentionally discharged oily bilge water and raw sewage into the ocean within three miles of the Alaskan coast in 2013, and later presented false records to the Coast Guard. A federal court in Alaska sentenced the company and its owner to five years of probation and $50,000 in fines.

In March 2013, Pacific Producer ran aground in Ouzinkie Narrows between Kodiak Island and Spruce Island. Last year, the vessel reportedly struck a private pier in Tacoma.

“Alaskan fishing industry workers depend on their employers for vessels that don’t jeopardize their safety and health,” OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jack A. Rector in Seattle said in February. “For more than a decade, our inspectors have found disgusting and dangerous conditions aboard the F/V Pacific Producer, and the wellbeing of crews aboard the vessel are at great risk because of its owner’s failures.”

“This employer’s blatant and continued disregard for crews aboard the F/V Pacific Producer must end before tragedy strikes,” Rector said. “The U.S. Department of Labor and its federal partners will use their full enforcement powers to hold East West Seafoods and Christos Tsabouris accountable for their callous neglect and contempt for federal workplace safety standards.”