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News: MARPOL violations trigger increased fines in Ghana

11 September 2020

Our local correspondents Budd Ghana report that the local authorities are adopting a stricter approach regarding MARPOL violations stemming from ships calling Ghana’s ports.

The club recommends reviewing the guidance as it provides an insight into the current trends of environmental fines imposed by the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA). A detailed list of the applicable fines depending the particular breach of the regulation and a copy of the advisory is available here.

In particular, the port state control authorities have focussed on the discharge of sewage and are reported to have imposed fines of 36,000USD on the grounds that samples taken from the ship’s sewage discharge didn’t meet the requirements of the MARPOL Annex IV, Regulation 11.1.2 (Chapter 5, Section 135 of Ghana's Marine Pollution Act), where treated effluent must not

'produce visible floating solids or (does not) cause discolouration of the surrounding water.' 

It is worth highlighting that the samples were checked visually only.

More generally, the guidance emphasises that the fines are non-negotiable and the authorities will not accept any form of guarantee. There are reported to to be cases of vessels being detained for years as a result. 
 
It is further understood that the local courts have the power to impose penalties far in excess of the original fines (for example, a fine of 36,000USD could turn into a penalty of 120,000USD) and potentially imprison the master and/or the chief engineer for up to 5 years. 
 
In contrast, if an owner agrees to sign the 'Ghana Maritime Authority Form MP-01', whereby they undertake to pay the full amount of the imposed fine within two weeks of the date of issue and waive the right to challenge this at the local courts, they are expected to obtain clearance for sailing without delays.

To the extent possible, it is recommended that members retain effluent on board while the ship is in Ghanaian waters and, in any event, to ensure that sewage treatment systems are functioning properly. More generally, thorough checks should be carried out to ensure compliance with wider MARPOL requirements.

We advise members to contact the undersigned or their usual club contact should they have any queries.