Freighter Captain Charged for Oil Spill on Earth Day

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By MarEx 2016-04-26 21:10:22

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has charged the captain and the owner of the Marshall Islands-flagged general cargo vessel South Wind with several violations of water pollution regulations. Her crew released 20 gallons of waste oil into the Hudson River on April 22, Earth Day, alleged DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos.

DEC received a call Friday afternoon reporting an oily sheen on the water around the South Wind, which was at dock in Rensselaer, NY.

DEC officer Brian Canzeri, members of DEC’s spill response team and port authorities investigated. The vessel's captain, Ion Lemnaru, told Canzeri that a build-up of pressure in the South Wind's waste oil tanks had caused oil to back up through vent pipes and spill onto the deck.

Canzeri and the response team found that crew members had collected the spilled oil and poured at least 20 gallons into the ship’s drain ports on deck, which discharged directly into the river. Due to tide going out, the oil dissipated before the spills response team could contain it. The oil was determined to have caused only minimal environmental impact.

“It’s unfortunate that in 2016 we’re still tasked with policing this type of behavior,” said Acting Commissioner Seggos. “Whether it’s 20 gallons or 200,000 gallons, we’re going to treat illegal dumping with the highest degree of scrutiny.”

Canzeri issued several violations to the captain and to the owner of the ship, South Wind Shipping Corporation, including discharging waste oil into waters of the state, failure to contain waste oil, unlawful disposal of used oil, and failure to report an oil spill.

Investigators searched the ship and found that her crew were storing waste oil in 55 gallon drums in the hull of the ship, along with several open 5-gallon pails of oil. DEC alerted the United States Coast Guard, and USCG inspectors confirmed that she had overfilled waste oil tanks and excessive waste oil on board.

The USCG ordered the removal of 4,000 gallons of waste oil from the vessel and mandated repairs to her engines before she can leave the port. USCG and DEC are continuing their investigation.