Ballast Water: An Administrative and Defense Law Lawyer’s Prospective.
Ballast Water: The Criminal and Administrative Problems of the 21st Century in Washington.
Ships are fitted with ballast tanks to make themselves more stable (safer) by weighing themselves down and creating a lower center of gravity. Traditionally, this is done by filling the tanks with water when the ship is preparing to leave port and then emptying the tanks upon arrival in port. Unfortunately, this practice is one of the largest causes of the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. Basically, the invasive species hitch-hikes in the ship’s ballast tanks. To protect Washington’s waters, the US Coast Guard and Fish & Wildlife must work together. The US Coast Guard is responsible for managing ballast water on a national level. They manage ships coming from outside of the US’s exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles offshore). However, ships coming from within the US exclusive economic zone but outside of Washington waters (from the Columbia River to 50° North) are the responsibility of Fish & Wildlife, who enforces Washington State’s ballast water management laws. The most common high risk un-exchanged ballast water discharged into state waters comes from California.
When a vessel of 300 gross tons and greater enters Washington’s waters, they must file a ballast water reporting form within 24 hours ensuring the ballasts are not a risk to discharge unsafe water. Ballast water can only be discharged into Washington State water if there has been a previous open sea exchange of water or if the ballast water has been treated to Fish and Wildlife’s set standards. The only exception would be if meeting these requirements endangered the safety of the ship, crew, or passengers. If this is the case, a waiver must be filed with the State but there may be a fee for the exemption of up to $5,000. A failure to comply with State regulations regarding ballasts may result in civil fines of up to $27,500 per day of continuous violation. Once receiving notice of the fine, the vessel’s owner must contest it within 20 days otherwise the right to appeal has been waived and the judgment can be enforced in court. An appeal of the fine must be done in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.
Remember, if you are being contacted by law enforcement or a State agent, there is no such thing as a friendly discussion: their role is to investigate potential crimes and collect evidence. Anything said to an officer can be used against you in a criminal and administrative action. Thus, the less said to such personnel, the better. Follow our advice for any criminal investigation and contact the defense lawyers of our legal team immediately to assure your rights and freedom are protected.