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MARPOL violations - Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) and probationary period in US

US is one place that follows a strict deterrence model for environment-related violations by vessels visiting its ports. Besides being fined heavily, Managers are required to implement an environmental compliance plan and put on probation. They can request for early termination of this probationary period but subject to a clear record subsequent to ECP’s implementation. In The Topaz Express [2023] the ISM Managers had applied to a Court in US for such early termination but the US Govt was opposing this and infact requesting to increase the probationary period by a year.

Here the Managers were put on a 4 yr probation after the vessel was found to have been pumping bilge waste directly overboard. The managers were entitled to move for early termination of probation after 36 months. They applied for it citing full implementation of the ECP, extensive revisions to its environmental manual and use of e-log books that allowed them to identify any MARPOL violations by their vessels.

Government on the other hand recommended an increase in the probationary period as there had been environment-related incidents during this period, such as discharging untreated ballast water in port, falsification of waste oil sounding records, a vessel's waste oil connection failing to comply with regulations etc. As per them the Manager's “corporate culture has not meaningfully changed”.

As per the Court, although there was a marked improvement in the Manager’s environmental stewardship, they had not fulfilled all their obligations as some of their fleet vessels had violated the ECP. The original period of probation was neither reduced nor extended.


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