Tug company fined for Seattle and Puget Sound oil spills

This non-union operation does all the bunkering in Puget Sound.


Department of Ecology News Release – November 18, 2009


BELLEVUE – The Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Olympic Tug & Barge Co. (Olympic) $47,000 for two oil spills, one last year in the West Waterway off Harbor Island in Seattle and one this year off Bainbridge Island.

“Olympic took these incidents very seriously,” said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology’s spill prevention, preparedness and response program. “The company’s success at ensuring that boat crews strictly follow its policies for internal fuel transfers will lead to effective protection for Washington’s waters.”

“In our investigations into both cases, we found that the responsible crew members failed to comply with established company procedures for internal transfers, which resulted in the termination of both individuals,” said Sven Christensen, General Manager for Olympic Tug & Barge. “Our investigations also found that human factors were the root cause in both incidents. We have since made systemic changes to improve training of vessel crews and to ensure compliance with company policies and procedures.”

The second incident – which prompted a $23,000 fine – occurred on the night of Feb. 2, 2009, when the tug Catherine Quigg was under way southbound off Bainbridge Island. Crew members noticed fuel spilling off the deck into the water. An internal fuel transfer between tanks was immediately halted.

The spill – later calculated at 211 gallons by Ecology – left a sheen in the main shipping channel. Olympic hired a response contractor which responded with four boats to recover oil from the water. Ecology inspected Bainbridge Island beaches by foot and by boat at first light and observed no shore impacts from the spill.

Investigators determined that a tank overfilled during the transfer, possibly because the piping system and valves had not been inspected beforehand as required in the company’s policies and procedures. The chief engineer – who was new to the Catherine Quigg – had not completed an orientation for that particular vessel. The tug captain had assigned too few crew members to monitor the transfer. Close monitoring enables a crew to spot and stop potential overflows. The crew also failed to plug the scuppers – drain holes on the deck.

Olympic may request Ecology reconsideration of the penalties or file appeals to the Washington State Pollution Control Board within 30 days.

Ecology’s spill prevention and response programs are part of the department’s efforts to reduce toxic threats and to restore Puget Sound.


Media Contacts:
Larry Altose, Ecology media relations, 206-920-2600
David Byers, Ecology spill response section manager, 360-407-6974
Dione Lee, Director of Quality, Safety and Environmental Protection, 206-447-3057.

For more information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html

~ by fredfelleman on November 19, 2009.

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