Civil and criminal penalties for MARPOL non-compliance are seeing a continuous trend worldwide, especially in the US, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the US, these violations can lead to multimillion-dollar financial penalties on shipowners and third-party vessel managers, while crew-members can face prison if found guilty.
The Standard P&I Club provided the liability basis and operational best practice for MARPOL compliance.
As explained, illegal practices that result in MARPOL investigations and prosecutions often involve a ‘magic pipe’ (or flexible hose) bypass of the oily water separator or improper discharge of sludge. Some have involved garbage violations under Annex V of MARPOL.
“Almost all cases have included prosecutions for false statements and records, such as misleading entries in the ship’s Oil Record Book and Garbage Record Book. This allows US authorities to prosecute shipowners in the US even if the alleged discharge took place outside of US waters.”
The false statements by crew members to USCG inspection teams and prosecutors, destruction or concealment of bypassing equipment, and incriminating records are a feature of many prosecutions and add considerably to the level of fines incurred.
“A shipowner can be found guilty of MARPOL violations even if it was unaware of the crew’s actions, if those actions benefitted the company (generally interpreted to mean saving money) and were related to the crew’s responsibilities. It is then for the shipowner to demonstrate that it had in place adequate environmental policies and procedures to prevent this.”
There is also an expectation that authorities will begin to target Annex VI violations which covers air emissions in light of IMO 2020.
Operational best practice :
Previous publications by the Standard P&I Club suggest the main issues to be addressed are:
“Rigorous training and supervision, regular auditing and effective senior management oversight are key to ensuring MARPOL compliance. The most effective way to mitigate risk in this area is maintaining a company-wide culture of compliance among, and co-operation and trust between, both ship and shoreside staff that is actively promoted by senior management. MARPOL best practice must be treated as the highest priority, rather than as simply another operational process.”