EPA Fines Container Ships Over Permit Violations in California

Container ship MSC Aurora. Image via Wikimedia Commons, Kees Torn.

A Mediterranean Shipping Company container ship operating in California that was found to have violated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspection, monitoring and reporting regulations has been assessed penalties totaling more than $66,000, the EPA said.

The MSC Aurora, which sails under the flag of Panama, was found to have violated EPA’s Vessel General Permit (VGP) issued under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

From November 2016 to July 2021, the MSC Aurora failed to conduct required routine visual inspections for 11 voyages to Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland seaports, according to a November statement issued by the EPA.

The MSC Aurora also failed to submit timely annual reports to EPA for 2016 through 2019, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The violations were discovered in February 2020 as part of EPA and U.S. Coast Guard on-site visual inspections of the MSC Aurora at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

“For these multiple inspection and reporting violations, Mediterranean Shipping Company, SRL has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $66,474 under the settlement,” EPA said in an announcement.

“Vessels that do not comply with their CWA permits can have significant environmental impacts to our waterways, including the introduction of invasive species,” Amy Miller, EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director for the country’s Pacific Southwest region, said. “Failure to comply with the Vessel General Permit requirements can result in significant penalties.”

Vessel self-inspections are required as a means of identifying, for example, sources of spills, broken pollution prevention equipment, or other situations that are or might lead to permit violations and allow the owner/operator to correct the situation as soon as possible.

Self-inspections are required by the permit so that the owner or operator can diagnose and fix problems to remain compliant with the permit. Because the CWA relies on self-reporting of permittees, inspection, monitoring and reporting violations are serious and undermine the Vessel General Permit program, EPA said.