Regulation and control must inevitably be accompanied by the development of waste reception facilities. Many tanker ports are now equipped with a specialised reception station (deballasting station), but many of the stations in poorer countries are insufficient or out of service, their tanks full of semi-solidified oily sludge. As these countries have no pollution surveillance resources for their coasts, it remains very tempting for ship operators to discharge oily waste from their vessels in these areas.
Deballasting stations are reception and recycling facilities for bilge residues and waste waters with which all the world’s ports should be equipped to take oily waste from vessels in port for a stopover or for repairs. This oily waste, stored onboard vessels in designated tanks (slop tanks), is pumped into the station’s reservoirs, where it is separated from the seawater and solid waste it contains by settling. They oily fraction is sent to a refinery for recycling or is directly reused if it is mainly composed of heavy fuel oil. After purification, the water is returned to the natural environment.
Deballasting stations are classified facilities, with discharge standards which must be respected, autosurveillance procedures
and periodic checks.
A case of illegal discharge
On 24 March 1998, a Royal Air Force aircraft, whilst on a routine patrol, observed the Norwegian liquid petroleum gas carrier the MT Havrim illegally polluting off the west coast of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. The crew photographed the slick, estimated to be seven miles long and 300 yards wide, and reported it to Stornaway Coastguard. The report was immediately passed on to the Marine Pollution Control Unit.
The Marine Safety Agency was alerted and two surveyors boarded the vessel on her arrival in Pembroke, Wales. The tanker was subsequently detained and the owner put up a bank guarantee of £255,000. At an emergency court hearing on 30 March 1998, the owners were fined a total of £20,000 for illegal discharge of engine oil bilges.