Vessel information

We provide this guidance to help vessel masters, agents, and companies understand Washington state regulations and prepare for possible visits by Washington state inspectors. We also provide educational material to help vessel masters and companies reduce the risk of a pollution incident in Washington waters.

State requirements for vessels

Vessel owners and operators should be aware that they are subject to state requirements that vary from federal requirements. State prevention and preparedness requirements for vessels are established in the following rules and laws:

The majority of cargo and passenger vessels visiting Washington ports must have contingency plan coverage. Vessels visiting Puget Sound or Grays Harbor must have coverage through Washington State Maritime Cooperative (WSMC) or National Response Corporation (NRC) to be covered under state contingency plan requirements. Vessels visiting the Columbia River must have coverage with the Marine Fire and Safety Association (MFSA). Some vessel owners may elect to submit their own contingency plan, which must be approved by Washington state 65 days prior to arrival in Washington.

Washington state law directs us to "take all actions necessary to respond to a substantial threat of a discharge of oil or hazardous substances into the waters of this state or to collect, investigate, perform surveillance over, remove, contain, treat, or disperse oil or hazardous substances discharged into waters of the state” (Chapter 90.56.350 RCW).

Financial responsibility requirements vary according to vessel type.

Examples of regulated vessels are tank vessels, cargo vessels, large fish processing vessels, and passenger vessels. All vessels over 300 gross tons have requirements for reporting, prevention, and preparedness.


Passenger vessel  a ship of greater than 300 gross tons with a fuel capacity of at least 6,000 gallons, carrying passengers for compensation.

Cargo vessel  a self-propelled ship in commerce, other than a tank vessel or a passenger vessel, 300 or more gross tons, including but not limited to commercial fish processing vessels and freighters.

Tank vessel  a ship (regardless of gross tonnage) that is constructed or adapted to carry, or that carries, oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue, and that operates on the waters of the state; or transfers oil in a port or place subject to the jurisdiction of this state.

Accepted industry standards

We worked with industry to develop these standards for vessels operating in Washington waters.

Safety recommendations

Vessels operating in Washington waters should observe the recommendations of the harbor safety committee governing those waters.

These stories and statistics on past incidents can help masters and crews avoid vessel casualties.