News 04 Aug, 2011

USA - New Washington State Oil Pollution Notification Protocol

Washington State has advised of a change to its oil spill reporting requirements.

Previously, only actual oil spills occurring in state waters needed to be reported. However, Washington State’s Department of Ecology has announced that as from 22 July 2011, a vessel’s owner or operator must report any emergency that results in a discharge or a substantial threat of oil discharge into state waters, or that may affect the state’s natural resources, within one hour of the onset of the emergency.

The report is to be made to the Department of Ecology via Washington State’s Emergency Management Division. The amendment is intended to facilitate early action by the authorities to help mitigate any spill that may occur, for instance, by moving equipment to the incident location.

The Department of Ecology lists examples of vessel emergencies that may pose a substantial threat of oil pollution and require such notification, including:

  • Fire or flooding
  • Loss of propulsion in a drifting vessel
  • Grounding
  • Collision or sinking
  • Major failure or damage to the vessel’s structure that could result in flooding or sinking
  • Allision resulting in a breach of the hull
  • Reduction of a vessel’s stability
  • Explosion resulting in a major failure of or damage to the vessel’s structure
  • Broken towing wire between towing vessel and tow
  • A breach of the watertight envelope and/or a tank containing oil

In addition, the Department of Ecology advises that the following factors should be taken into account when considering whether a vessel emergency substantially threatens Washington State’s natural resources:

  • Ship location and proximity to land or other navigational hazards
  • Weather
  • Tidal currents
  • Sea state
  • Traffic density
  • Severity and nature of damage to vessel
  • Timing or likelihood of vessel repairs

Such reports are to be made in addition to the notification that must be provided to the United States Coast Guard by vessels with known hazardous conditions.

Members whose vessels are likely to be affected by this change are advised to review the full text of the Department of Ecology’s Notice Letter and ensure that their Masters and shore staff are aware of the new reporting requirements.

In the event of any queries, please contact the Loss Prevention department.