Jesus, the US Coastguard and IMO SOPEP update

| Safety Blog

Please find attached PDF file and link to the latest IMO list of national operational contact points responsible for the receipt, transmission and processing or urgent reports on incidents involving harmful; substances, including oil from ships to coastal states. Total bloody nightmare finding this on IMO website. No spirit of ‘Keep it Simple, Sailor’ at IMO, it seems. Captains of Watkins managed yachts, hard copy on its way to you.

For those who carry a SOPEP, this would normally be added as an annexe. This list is updated six monthly and is a little treat for the small minority of unimaginative, desperate port state control inspectors who will jubilantly view an out-of-date list as a defect. Inspectors in certain ports will also use this as an excuse to demand illegal payment of fines.

We posted this on social media a few months ago, but for those who missed it, repeated here.

It is never a wasted reminder to say that the days of hiding pollution incidents are all but over and reporting inadvertent discharges honestly and quickly are viewed favourably. A friend manages a fleet of large tankers and recounted a ghastly story of one of his VLCCs headed for the US, where the Chief Engineer advised the Master in passing that he had pumped out just short of 2,000 tonnes of cargo and engine room slops to sea overnight. The Master advised the manager, who duly had kittens of course, and simultaneously radioed ahead and reported this to the US Coast Guard. I dare say he may have also packed a small bag of essentials for an undetermined stay in a US prison.

Coastguard inspectors boarded on arrival en masse of course. The company’s MD and designated person had taken the first flight and were on the quayside. The USCG guys were unsurprisingly thorough and even sent divers down to sample residues in and around the overboard discharges. The worried MD in the meantime, had to make some pretty uncomfortable calls to his charterer – one of the oil majors – and could see his future revenue with that particular client slipping away, and undoubtedly preparing himself for the news to get around the market. It would not be long before his company would become a pariah amongst all the majors.
At the end of a long day after a full inspection and all crewmembers having had a thorough grilling, a group of USCG senior managers summoned the Captain, MD, DPA and the Chief Engineer.

‘Chief, please tell us all again what you told our senior inspector’.

The Chief Engineer explained in great detail, and seemingly without remorse, how he’d gone to the engine room alone at night and decided to dump 2,000 tonnes of thick black shite to sea.

‘Chief. We have been over this ship like a bad rash. We have measured, checked, interviewed, scratched and sniffed. There isn’t 2,000 tonnes of anything missing. How do you explain that?’

‘You will have to ask Jesus. He’s the one who told me to pump it over the wall’.

A much relieved MD sat with the tired and vulnerable Chief Engineer on the flight home, where his family and the company medical team were waiting to greet him with love and kindness. The Captain did not get his stay in Alcatraz but enjoyed a nightcap with the Coastguard boys. Their final word to him:
‘Captain, it is never wrong to report any suspected or actual discharge to sea. We are on your side. But if you don’t report it, we’re not’.

And for those of us who have gone through the pain barrier with the USCG over the years, we know they can be a powerful adversary indeed. And not just the US. Captains of Watkins’ managed yachts are again reminded to report all discharges to sea aside from water. We will always be supportive, but our efforts will be severely constrained if there has been any attempt at deception.

Please feel free to distribute, circulate as you see fit and we are always happy to add new names to our circulation list.