Spills photo identifier

Spills Program


Ecology believes spill prevention is the only way to achieve zero spills to water. Inspections are conducted to ensure pollution prevention policies and procedures are in place, accepted industry standards are being met, and ship crews and equipment are working safely and properly. They fill a critical role in ensuring marine safety and protection for Washington waters. Ecology works with the United States Coast Guard and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in support of our joint goal to prevent oil spills, as well as with industry to develop accepted industry standards. These standards, based on international conventions and federal regulations, identify best marine practices. All of these cooperative efforts have decreased oil spills from commercial vessels over the past two decades.

Tank Vessels Cargo, Passenger & Fishing Vessels Oil Transfer Requirements Bunkering Vessel Emergencies

Tank Vessels

A "tank vessel" is defined as any ship that is constructed or adapted to carry, or that carries, oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue [RCW 88.46.010(20)].

Cargo, Passenger & Fishing Vessels

"Cargo vessel" means a self-propelled ship in commerce, other than a tank vessel or a passenger vessel, of three hundred or more gross tons, including but not limited to, commercial fish processing vessels and freighters [RCW 88.46.010(3)]. Passenger vessel means a ship of three hundred or more gross tons with a fuel capacity of at least six thousand gallons carrying passengers for compensation [ RCW 88.46.010(16)].

Oil Transfer Requirements for Delivering Vessels

Washington rules for oil transfers can be found in vessel oil transfer advanced notice of transfer and containment requirements, WAC Chapter 174-184.

Advance notice of transfer
Advance notice of transfer (ANT) is required by the delivering facility (fixed or mobile) or vessel which is transferring over 100 gallons of bulk oil to a non-recreational vessel or facility. The ANT must be submitted 24 hours prior to the transfer for facilities, and as required by local USCG Captain of the Port requirements for vessels. Submitting the ANT through Washington state's system satisfies the USCG's reporting requirements.

For more information on ANT requirements, refer to the following:

Pre-Booming Requirements
While Ecology’s first priority is preventing spills from occurring, pre-booming oil transfers is the state’s first line of defense should a spill happen. Any oil transferred over Washington waters is subject to Washington’s oil transfer rules which include pre-booming.

If the vessel is receiving oil as fuel, expect to have the area around the transfer boomed. The vessel delivering oil is required to supply the boom and deploy it before the transfer begins and to retrieve it when the transfer is finished.

If the vessel is delivering oil to a facility or another vessel, the transfer is required to be pre-boomed. All large oil facilities in Washington are equipped with boom and the ability to deploy and retrieve it. There are several oil spill cleanup companies that provide boom service, contact your agent for more information.

Washington’s pre-booming rules take into account transfer rate, as well as weather and water conditions. If the transfer rate is below 500 gallons per minute, or environmental conditions make it unsafe or ineffective to pre-boom, the delivering vessel or the facility will provide additional oil spill cleanup equipment on stand-by.

For more information on pre-booming requirements, refer to the following:


These requirements apply to all bunkering operations to refuel a self-propelled covered vessel 300 gross tons or more, and to all owners, operators, persons-in-charge, and other personnel involved in bunkering in State waters. The following documents will assist you in complying with Washington's procedures for safe bunkering.

Produced by the Pacific State/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force, this Bunkering Best Management Practices video focuses on bunkering procedures and can be used to educate vessel crews on best bunkering practices. (Length: Approximately 15 minutes)

Vessel Emergencies

Vessel operators must notify Ecology via Washington's Division of Emergency Management within one hour of experiencing a vessel emergency that either results in a discharge or poses a substantial threat of discharge of oil. The purpose of this notification is to allow federal, state and industry partners to coordinate efforts and ensure that reasonable spill preparedness and response measures can be pre-identified, staged, or mobilized prior to a spill occurring.

  • The contact information for Washington's Division of Emergency Management is in your contingency plans (1-800-258-5990 / 24 hours a day).
  • The law states that "the owner or operator of a covered vessel must notify the state of any vessel emergency that results in the discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil to state waters or that may affect the natural resources of the state within one hour of the onset of that emergency."
  • By making this notification the vessel operator will be taking the first step to implement a proportional response to the emergency in coordination with your Northwest response partners.
  • A vessel emergency includes incidents such as loss of propulsion, grounding, loss of steering, allisions, and collisions.

View an interactive map of oil transfers in Washington.
Oil transfers in Washington