Sydney charter boat operator fined $15,000 for polluting Sydney harbour

25 July 2018

A Sydney charter vessel operator has been fined $15,000 after being found with a cable tie holding open the sewage discharge valve on a luxury charter boat which operates out of Sydney Harbour.

Roads and Maritime Services Executive Director Angus Mitchell said the issuing of the penalty notice under marine pollution laws was the culmination of an investigation after a targeted compliance campaign and inspection of two charter boats last month.

“On Friday 15 June, Roads and Maritime Services inspectors and surveyors and NSW Water Police grounded two charter vessels after carrying out random inspections in response to credible information received about potential safety breaches,” Mr Mitchell said.

“As a result of further interviews and investigations, a penalty notice has now been issued by Roads and Maritime marine investigators under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.”

“An inspection of the engine room revealed the overboard discharge valve from the vessel’s sewage tank was secured in the ‘open’ position by a cable tie, and the sewage tank was empty – directly after the vessel had returned from a two-hour charter.

“This indicated that any toilet discharge was pumped directly overboard into the waters of Sydney Harbour.

“Further investigations have confirmed the pollution of waters offence, and as a result Roads and Maritime has issued the owner of the vessel with a penalty notice which carries a fine of $15,000 payable in 21 days for the pollution offence.”

Mr Mitchell said there was nothing more serious to other boaters and marine life than breaches of safety and marine pollution legislation.

“Other safety breaches identified in the targeted compliance operation are being considered for other possible legal action by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).”

The two boats were grounded for a number of days until required safety improvements were carried out and verified by a marine surveyor.

Along with the sewage issues, one of the vessels was found last month to not have a ‘competent crewman’ on board who also had no knowledge of the location of lifejackets or other safety equipment on board.

“Deficient safety equipment included empty fire extinguishers, a life raft which was unable to float, out of date first aid kit and missing items.”

Mr Mitchell said of the 12,000 domestic commercial vessels in NSW, there are about 220 of this class of vessel in NSW with about 140 operating on Sydney Harbour.

“Maritime inspectors and surveyors take a risk-based approach and carry out regular inspections of high risk vessels, including targeted compliance of specific vessels as required, particularly after credible information is received by the agency,” Mr Mitchell said.

“All operators need to comply with strict safety standards which are in place to protect persons, property and the environment or face the consequences.”

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