Environmental Response Policy

11/1/2018: Coast Guard, South African agencies hold seminar on vessel pollution prevention and enforcement

Attendees at the MARPOL seminar in Cape Town, South Africa.

South African attendees and members from the international delegation pose for a quick photo before splitting into small teams to conduct exercises within the port of Cape Town. US Coast Guard photo courtesy Lt. Cmdr. Baxter Smoak.

Submitted by Office of Investigations & Casualty Analysis, Compliance Analysis Division staff

Marine pollution, which includes discharges of oil, hazardous material, and plastics, is a serious and growing threat to coastal ecosystems, threatening waters, coastal lands, and food chains in the United States and around the world. Treaties and U.S. laws and regulations fight this trend and protect the marine environment. While the vast majority of ship operators are law-abiding, some illegally discharge oil, hazardous material, and plastics into the marine environment to avoid compliance and cut costs. Enforcement of laws and regulations is critical to protect the environment and ensure a level playing field so that non-compliant businesses do not gain an unfair monetary advantage.

In September, subject matter experts from the U.S. Coast Guard, prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice, and senior leaders from the International Police (INTERPOL) Pollution Crimes Working Group traveled to Cape Town for a four-day seminar to exchange information and share techniques with officials from the Republic of South Africa on vessel pollution prevention and enforcement. In addition, the event assisted South Africa prepare for and execute its operational plan to support INTERPOL’s Operation-30 Days at Sea, a global effort involving 58 nations, including the United States, to detect, deter, and prosecute marine polluters.

Over 70 people from six South African agencies participated in the four-day exchange including the Department of Environmental Affairs; South African Maritime Safety Authority; Transnet, South Africa’s national port authority; Customs/South African Revenue Service; the State Security Agency; and various marine and port police units.

U.S. Coast Guard inspectors and investigating officers Lt. Cmdr. Baxter Smoak and Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Miros led the seminar and focused on the U.S. process for ensuring compliance with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and actions the U.S. government takes when it suspects civil or criminal conduct aboard a foreign or domestic vessel.

Photo of group in an engine room

Seminar attendees learn about the operation and testing of a vessel’s oily water separator and oil content meter during a mock vessel boarding. US Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Baxter Smoak.

Two days of classroom discussion focused on the U.S. process of leveraging inspection and port state control authorities to detect intentional pollution, noncompliance with pollution prevention equipment or falsification of records. On the third day, the participants put their knowledge into practice aboard vessels in and around Cape Town harbor during simulated boardings, and the international teams conducted in-depth MARPOL exams and reviewed required certificates and records, tested pollution prevention equipment, and inspected the material condition of the vessel. Participants ended the week with a debrief to highlight lessons learned, followed by a planning session to develop the tactics necessary to achieve South Africa’s strategic goals during INTERPOL’s Operation-30 Days at Sea.

“This event is just one example of how the Coast Guard works globally to help our international partners prevent the introduction of invasive species into the maritime environment, stop unauthorized ocean dumping, and prevent oil and chemical spills,” said Smoak. “South Africa advanced its goals to execute their operational plan and support INTERPOL’s objectives to tackle marine environmental pollution issues, and bring attention to the impact of illegal discharges as well as improving detection methods for MARPOL violations.”

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

Leave a Reply