Washington state has fined Foss Maritime Co. $577,000 for negligence that resulted in a 4,700-gal. oil spill in 2003. The fine was the largest ever for an oil spill in Puget Sound.
Seattle-based Foss had 30 days to appeal the fine that was handed down in April. As of early May, the company hadn’t decided whether to file an appeal, according to Bruce Reed, vice president of operations for the tug-and-barge company.
The spill occurred at night when a Foss-owned tank barge overflowed while being filled with No. 6 marine fuel oil at the ChevronTexaco terminal at Point Wells, about 15 miles north of Seattle. Warning systems and alarms apparently failed. The barge was manned by a single tankerman who didn’t respond in time to prevent the overflow. The spilled fuel oil drifted west across Puget Sound and fouled shellfish beaches owned by the Suquamish Tribe. Foss paid for the cleanup, which lasted 115 days and cost about $4.5 million.
In a written statement distributed when the fine was announced, Reed apologized for the spill: “I want to reiterate again how sorry we are personally and as a company at the impact this spill had on our local environment and its residents, especially those of the Suquamish Tribe whose tribal waters and lands bore the greatest brunt of the release.”
Reed also noted that since the spill, Foss has implemented new procedures designed to prevent future tank-barge spills. Included are unannounced inspections or audits of tank barges, review meetings with all Foss tankermen working the Pacific coast, and the implementation of enhanced manning.
“We review the manning on each transfer with the tankerman who will be working on it and the tank barge managers to make sure that the manning is proper given the environment, the time of day, and the type of load or discharge,” said Reed.
Foss is also negotiating a separate settlement with the Suquamish Tribe, according to Reed. — Bruce Buls