Open hatches during a high seas transport of a tank barge allowed an unknown amount of fuel to spill into the Salish Sea during a February 2021 crossing, leading to a $38,500 fine from the Washington Department of Ecology.
On Feb. 7, 2021, the Shauna Kay was being towed from the Parkland Refinery in Vancouver, B.C., to Commencement Bay in Tacoma. The barge was carrying 1.55 million gallons of high-sulfur fuel oil, marine gas oil, and ultra-low sulfur diesel. When the barge arrived in Commencement Bay the next day, tug crews discovered high-sulfur fuel oil had splashed out of the cargo tanks, creating a sheen in Commencement Bay. Cleanup contractors were able to recover 267 gallons of oil from the vessel’s deck. An unknown quantity spilled overboard. The vessel is operated by Olympic Tug & Barge, Inc., a subsidiary of Centerline Logistics.
Ecology’s investigation found two hatches on the deck were not secured properly prior to the barge’s departure, causing the fuel to splash out during high seas. In addition, the two hatches were inadequately maintained. The company contends the hatches had been secured prior to departure, but came open during transit. In either case, Ecology determined the company was negligent. The penalty is for spilling oil to water and negligence.
While there were no reported impacts to wildlife from this spill, oil and refined oil products are acutely toxic. When spilled, oil has adverse effects on mammals, fish, birds and other animals. Even small amounts of oil can severely injure or impair different species. Oil can also adversely affect the habitats that wildlife depend on for survival.
The penalty may be appealed to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.