MARPOL violations and safety management failings

23rd May 2017

MARPOL violations and safety management failings

Initial Report

Outline:

A reporter has alleged serious violations of MARPOL and corrupt practices with serious safety management failings which CHIRP has passed to the flag state authority for investigation.

What the Reporter told us:

Since I joined the vessel I have observed several non-compliances with MARPOL regulations.

  • After discharging vegetable oils, the vessel carried out tank cleaning and a mixture of noxious liquid substances and seawater was directly discharged to the sea using a cargo hose from the ship’s manifold. The last cargo was MARPOL II Category Y (pollution hazard) and even though the cargo was vegetable oil, it can still pollute the sea and the requirements of MARPOL Annex II were being violated. (Regulation 13 2.1.2 – the discharge must be made below the waterline through underwater outlets, whilst not exceeding the maximum rate for which the underwater discharge outlet is designed). This method of cleaning is being carried out every time the vessel conducts a tank cleaning operation.
  • Just before arriving at an anchorage I saw an engineer discharging oily waste from the engine room directly into the sea without passing through the oily water separator.
  • The vessel was at anchor and a newly promoted engineer and duty oiler discharged oily waste directly to sea as ordered by the Chief Engineer. They believed that they had no choice but to follow instructions or else they would be sent home. On that occasion, the company’s Marine Superintendent saw the incident and did nothing to stop it. He is the company representative but instead of following the rules he was tolerating wrongdoings.
  • At a different anchorage, oily residues were once again discharged. I have some videos that will prove that MARPOL regulations were violated.

In addition, the reporter advised the following;

A vetting inspection was carried out (which typically occurs every six months on tankers). I was with the vetting inspector and he noted many major and detainable deficiencies, for example:

  • High/Overfill tank alarms not working properly;
  • Fixed Gas Monitoring system not working;
  • Oil Discharge Monitoring Equipment not working – the inspector searched the equipment for a testing date but this was not available. In the Oil Record Book, it was recorded as being tested monthly, and
  • Personnel including engineers were not familiar with the operation of the monitoring equipment.

It was alleged that after the closing meeting following the inspection, the inspector’s remarks and findings were not acted upon. The reporter advised “They just said to us that the vessel passed the inspection”.

The ship has been in other ports where Port State Control carried out inspections and noted major deficiencies, but following the inspection someone (allegedly) paid the inspector in order to pass. Most of the time harbour pilots complain about the steering system of the vessel. On one occasion, we entered a river and the steering system failed – the vessel almost grounded in shallow water. The pilot wanted to report the incident to Port Control, but after the Master (allegedly) paid the pilot the vessel continued to the berth. They hide the truth – the ship has had problems with the steering gear for a long time. The vessel suddenly turns whilst in auto pilot and hand steering reportedly does not work properly. Once in a congested traffic area the vessel lost steering and nearly collided with other ships in the vicinity. Repairs were attempted but we noticed they were just experimenting by transferring the spare parts from steering system number 1 to number 2 and vice versa – we still have steering problems.

Another concern was the mooring winches which have two drums. On one of the winches one drum cannot be disengaged – it is very dangerous during mooring and unmooring operations, but has not been repaired. The company just said it is for dry-dock work, but the lives of the crew engaged in mooring operations are still in great danger. If an accident happens to the crew, they are just not concerned for our safety. We have also family waiting for us at home.

I believe that my vessel is not the only one that has problems and that there are many others out there. Most are afraid to report deficiencies or malpractice, which takes courage. I still believe that the priority must be the lives of persons working on board, because without seafarers there is no shipping industry”.

What the Third Party told us

As the report states, a company superintendent was in attendance in at least one instance, so the reporter asked CHIRP not to contact the Company. The reporter did, however, wish the report to be followed up and thus CHIRP contacted the vessel’s Flag State, which investigated the MARPOL allegations.

 CHIRP Comment

The discussion of this report by the Maritime Advisory Board was wide ranging. It was agreed that there was potential for Port, Coastal and Flag State legal intervention, so all positions and geographical references have been removed from the report. The relevant Flag State has been informed and they have agreed to make their own investigation.

There are other details in the report given to CHIRP which are not specifically safety related, and CHIRP is aware of the involvement of both the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, (ISWAN), and the International Transport Workers Federation, (ITF).

The Board congratulated the reporter for his or her extremely brave action in submitting this report to CHIRP. Whatever the outcome of this harrowing case, it demonstrates that alleged illegal activity and serious management failings in safety and environmental issues will be acted upon by CHIRP and passed to appropriate authorities with a request for their further investigation.

However, it should be noted that CHIRP is not an organisation that can be used for ‘whistleblowing’ reporting; we cannot accept such reports as we can never satisfactorily deal with criminal acts that are knowingly and wilfully being committed by either shore or ship management.

Report Ends

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