Washington State Department of Ecology - April 3, 2013

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Seafood firm fined $12,654 for lacking spill readiness plan

OLYMPIA – The state Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Seattle-based East West Seafoods and Christos Tsabouris $12,654 for operating the commercial fish processing vessel Pacific Producer in Washington waters from 2009 to 2012 without an approved oil spill readiness plan.

It is the second time East West Seafoods and vessel owner Tsabouris has been discovered operating in Washington waters without an oil spill contingency plan to respond to potential spills.

In January 2008, Ecology first ordered the company and Tsabouris to get spill contingency plan coverage while responding to an oily bilge waste discharge from the Pacific Producer at the Port of Willapa. They apparently allowed the plan to lapse in 2009 and chose not to renew it.

State law requires all large commercial vessels, passenger ships, oil tankers and tank barges have spill contingency plans to operate in state waters. These plans help ensure vessels can mount a rapid, aggressive and well coordinated response if they spill oil.

Ecology has calculated a major oil spill could cost Washington’s economy up to $10.8 billion and adversely affect as many as 165,000 jobs due to disruptions to maritime shipping and public port activities, recreation and tourism, and injuries to state fish, shellfish and wildlife resources.

After Ecology discovered the 169-foot Pacific Producer was again operating in state waters without a spill contingency plan, the department issued an administrative order on June 22, 2012, requiring the vessel to immediately obtain coverage.

However, Tsabouris and East West Seafoods waited until June 29, 2012, before the company paid to enroll the Pacific Producer under a state-approved umbrella contingency plan operated by the Seattle-based Washington State Maritime Cooperative (WSMC).

More than 1,600 commercial vessels operating in Puget Sound and Grays Harbor enroll with WSMC. The non-profit organization manages the spill response for a vessel involved in an oil spill during the first 24 hours of an incident, including providing a spill response contractor. 

A similar organization, the Maritime Fire and Safety Association, provides comparable coverage for about 1,000 vessels operating in the Columbia River.

Linda Pilkey-Jarvis oversees statewide oil spill preparedness activities for Ecology. She said the fine was based on several factors:

Pilkey-Jarvis said: “The Pacific Producer operated in our most sensitive waters – from Willapa Bay to Puget Sound – without having the financial and practical ability to respond if the vessel had had an oil spill. It is irresponsible for any company or commercial vessel owner to knowingly operate in our waters without this coverage. We hope this penalty sends a strong message that Washington cannot and will not tolerate this level of environmental risk.”

East West Seafoods and Tsabouris may appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board. 

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Media Contact: Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908; curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Oil spill contingency plans (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/preparedness/cplan/cplans.html)

Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)