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Spills photo identifier

Spills Program

Cargo, Passenger, and Fishing Vessels

Cargo vessels are defined as self-propelled commercial ships, 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 vessels are defined as ships 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)]. Fishing vessel means a vessel, also 300 gross tons or greater, engaged in the commercial catching, harvesting or processing of fish, or in tendering to or from vessels that catch, harvest or process fish. The following links provide information on requirements for cargo, passenger, and fishing vessels operating in Washington State waters.

Oil Transfer Requirements Accepted Industry Standards Contingency Plans



Oil Transfer Requirements

Washington state has rules for oil transfers over water. These requirements refer to the procedures and equipment necessary for safe oil transfers. If the vessel receives oil as fuel, you must follow Washington's bunkering requirements. You should also expect the oil transfer area to be pre-boomed.

The vessel or facility delivering your fuel must follow Washington oil transfer rules, which include pre-booming. They are responsible for providing the boom, deployment before the start of transfer, and recovery when the transfer is complete.

Bunkering Requirements

These 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. If the vessel is receiving oil as fuel, expect to have the area around the transfer boomed.

View an interactive map of oil transfers in Washington.


Accepted Industry Standards

During a cargo and passenger or fishing vessel boarding, Ecology inspectors review the vessels' operating procedures, personnel policies, and management practices to ensure they are meeting accepted industry standards. Cargo and passenger vessels have different standards than fishing vessels. See the documents below for more information.

Washington state believes that vessels following Washington's accepted industry standards will have fewer accidents and fewer oil spills. Vessels which fail to meet industry standards may pose a higher risk of harm to public safety and environmental health.

Accepted industry standards are created to:

  • Protect the state's natural resources.
  • Provide for safe marine transportation in state waters.
  • Determine whether cargo and passenger vessels entering or operating in state waters pose a substantial risk of harm to the public health and safety and to the environment.

The following documents will help you know what to expect when boarded by one of Ecology's professional mariners during a substantial risk inspection:


Contingency Plans

Each company is required to develop, maintain and practice their contingency plan, or sign up with an approved Washington state umbrella plan. All plans are reviewed and approved by Ecology on a five-year cycle.

Drill Program

Covered vessels are currently required under federal standards to participate in the National Preparedness and Response Program drill program (PREP). Under state rules you must demonstrate your ability to effectively implement your plan in an event of a spill. Ecology inspectors may conduct drills to test the ability of vessel personnel to notify authorities of an oil spill, as required by their contingency plan.

Financial Responsibility

Washington State has financial responsibility requirements that exceed federal requirements for:

Type of Vessel Financial Requirements
Cargo vessels and passenger vessels with an oil capacity greater than 6000 gallons $300 million
Fishing vessels where oil is predominantly a persistent product $6.67 million or $400.20 per barrel of total capacity; whichever is greater
Fishing vessels where oil is predominantly a non-persistent product $1.334 million or $133.40 per barrel of total capacity; whichever is greater

Chapter 88.40 RCW describes these requirements, provides information on means of establishing documentation of financial responsibility, and sets conditions for vessels to enter or operate on Washington waters.