Department of Ecology News Release - January 14, 2015

Fishing vessel owner fined for 2013 Seattle spill


The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Lynden-based Alaskan Leader Fisheries LLC $11,000 for a 2013 oil spill to Elliott Bay from one of its fishing vessels in Seattle.

The Bristol Leader, a 167-foot catcher-processor, spilled 181 gallons of diesel fuel into the bay on Sept. 13, 2013, while taking on fuel from a tank truck at Terminal 91.

Incoming fuel – intended for empty tanks on the Bristol Leader – went instead to a partly full tank. Ecology determined that the vessel’s chief engineer had not followed the company’s written procedures and loading plan. These specified which tanks would receive fuel and in what order, and required the chief engineer to monitor tank levels and valve settings.

“The company could have prevented the spill if they had kept a close watch on the valves and fuel levels,” said David Byers, Ecology’s spill response supervisor. “Each fuel transfer requires full care and attention to every step.”

Fuel flowed out of a fuel tank air vent and quickly filled a surrounding 49-gallon containment bin. Fuel then flowed across the deck and overboard. An oil spill containment boom had been placed around the Bristol Leader before fueling began, which kept most of the fuel from spreading beyond the waters immediately around the vessel.

Alaskan Leader Fisheries did not immediately report the spill as required by Washington law. The company delivering the fuel to the Bristol Leader made the initial report. The vessel owner had no prior Washington spills, and cooperated with the spill cleanup response and follow-up investigation.

Ecology penalties may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Besides the $11,000 fine, Ecology has billed the vessel owner $1,715 for the state’s costs to respond to the spill and oversee the cleanup of oil. Earlier, the state also issued a $1,966 assessment for damage the spill caused to the public’s natural resources, based on the amount spilled and the resources exposed. Alaskan Leader Fisheries paid this assessment in March 2014.

Contact information

Larry Altose
Communications manager
Twitter: ecyseattle
David Byers
Ecology spill response supervisor