Reporting non-compliance and extremely important to ensure the safety of employees and the welfare of the company. Knowing what to report and who to report it to are necessary for the proper action to be taken.
- Learn about the proper reporting method for non-compliance
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ship (MARPOL): Created by the IMO to deal with the specific standards regarding the stowing, handling, shipping, and transferring of pollutant cargoes, as well as standards of the discharge of ship-generated operational waste.
Whistleblower: Someone who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity.
The United States has been heavily enforcing compliance with the MARPOL, implemented in the United States by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (“APPS”). Since the early 1990s, the effort has been directed at all registered and domestic tonnage types. Those prosecuted for MARPOL violations also span a wide spectrum of owners, operators, technical managers, masters, engineers, shoreside personnel, and corporate officers.
MARPOL Annex I prosecutions commonly involve bypasses of the oily water separator or discharges of sludge overboard rather than through incineration. Few of these prosecutions involve illegal discharges in U.S. waters – virtually all involve false, inaccurate, or incomplete entries in the Oil Record Book (“ORB”). Maintaining an inaccurate ORB while in domestic waters or presenting an inaccurate ORB to the USCG may be a crime and a basis for prosecution. There are also several prosecutions for illegal discharges of garbage under MARPOL Annex V.
In the US, non-compliance with MARPOL may have some serious consequences:
- Fines in millions of dollars for companies
- Prison sentences
- Vessel detention or entering a Security Agreement
- Diverting management time from running the business to dealing with the investigation
Reporting non-compliance within the company
Ideally, every company has procedures and protocols in place to comply with environmental requirements. This management system focuses on environmental compliance for the maritime industry. The goal is to follow regulations and exceed them in the interest of personnel safety, environmental protection, and sustainability of the company.
Responsible companies should condemn wrongful actions and non-compliance and should have procedures in place for individuals to report non-compliance within the company. It is imperative to train and make it known that the company encourages an internal report before any external reports. Any concerns should primarily be taken up onboard and through the ranks and onboard command. If not, or if reporters don’t feel comfortable, then there should be a list of contact people, from the superintendent, Designated Person Ashore and the internal Environmental department. The company should be given the chance to fix the problem themselves before reports are made to governmental authorities.
After any reports are made, it is very important to have the correct chain of command for investigation and follow-up, and that the reporter is always protected from retaliation.
Reporting non-compliance outside the company (whistleblower)
If the concerns of non-compliance are not properly responded to by onboard command or by the shoreside management, then reporters may go outside of the company by reporting directly to the U.S. Coast Guard. Some companies have a hotline on their web page to encourage that such reports are made first to shoreside management so they can be dealt with promptly.
Whistleblowers have been part of the seascape in APPS prosecutions for years and more than 50% of the new cases stem from whistleblowers. Unfortunately, whistleblowers often ignore company policies and the ISM Code by reporting wrongdoing directly to the U.S. Coast Guard rather than through the chain of command or to the Designated Person Ashore. Such actions serve to undermine international systems in place to deal with potential violations, as well as the company’s compliance program.
What Can You Do?
By following the proper procedures in place, reporting any non-compliance can be done efficiently and effectively. If there is a problem with the reporting system or the chain of command, reporting to an outside source is an option. But do follow proper procedure first. Without the reporting on non-compliance, the safety and interest of company personnel would be lost.