EPA Fines Two Shipping Companies for Ballast Water Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced two settlements with shipping companies Swire Shipping and MMS Co. for violating the Clean Water Act by failing to comply with the Vessel General Permit (VGP), which regulates the discharge of ballast water and other pollutants from vessels. The incidents occurred in locations as far away as Port of Pago Pago in American Samoa as well as California ports.  

Ballast water is water taken aboard a vessel to maintain stability and balance. It also can be contaminated with a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials pose serious ecological, economic, and public health impacts when they are released into new environments.

The VGP requires vessel owners and operators to implement best management practices to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants and invasive species from ballast water, as well as other sources. The VGP also requires them to monitor their discharges and submit annual reports to the EPA.

According to the EPA, Singapore-based Swire Shipping did not properly treat the ballast water on three of its vessels that visited ports in American Samoa and the U.S. between 2017 and 2019. As they failed to keep proper records and report its ballast water activities, Swire Shipping now must pay a total of $137,000 in penalties for the violations involving the M/V Papuan Chief, the M/V New Guinea Chief, and the M/V Lintan.

MMS Co., a Japanese company, also violated the VGP by not meeting the ballast water limitations and reporting inaccurate information in its annual reports for two of its vessels that visited U.S. ports in 2018 and 2019. The company agreed to pay a total of $200,000 in penalties for the violations involving the M/T St. Pauli and the M/T Centennial Misumi.

The settlements are subject to a 30-day public comment period before they become final. The public can submit comments online at: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/public-notices-actions-taken-under-federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act-0

“EPA takes compliance with the Vessel General Permit – a key element under the Clean Water Act – seriously. It is vitally important that vessel owners and operators properly manage what they discharge into our oceans, and that they meet their monitoring and reporting requirements,” said Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Noncompliance with the permit can seriously impact the quality of our nation’s waters, which are already challenged by port operations.”

The EPA encourages vessel owners and operators to use environmentally friendly methods to treat their ballast water, such as ultraviolet light, filtration, or chemical treatment. The agency also provides guidance and resources on how to comply with the VGP at: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/vessels-vgp

We at the Herd Law Firm are proud to fight for maritime workers and passengers in all types of personal injury claims, and never waver in our commitment to help these maritime workers and their families when they are injured.


Read the EPA’s News Release here: EPA Settles with Shipping Companies over Claims of Clean Water Act Violations | US EPA

Image source: Swire Shipping


  1. Safety Measures To Prevent Falling Overboard a Boat. https://longlifesport.com/prevent-falling-overboard-a-boat/
  2. Man overboard: prevention and rescue. https://boatingcompass.org/man-overboard/
  3. Cruise Junkie Cruise Passengers Overboard (cruisejunkie.com)

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