Reports say PSC officers of the GMA (Ghana Maritime Authority) take samples of the vessel’s sewage discharge. If they note any visible solids or discoloration in the sample, they consider it a contravention of Chapter 5 Section 135 of Ghana’s Marine Pollution Act – based on MARPOL Annex IV Regulation 11.1.2 – where a treated effluent must not “produce visible floating solids or (does not) cause discolouration of the surrounding water“. This has resulted in fines of around USD 36,000.00, North P&I Club advises.
The PSC officer then presents the vessel with the document “GMA Marpol Violations, Notification of Detention of Vessel”. This details the grounds for the detention and allows the master to submit to the GMA’s ‘first-time offender program’.
Under the conditions of the ‘first-time offender program’, the fine must be paid within two weeks of the date of issue, and the right to go to court is waived. Budd Ghana understand that if there is agreement on this, the vessel will be free to sail. However, if the master refuses, the vessel will be in detention in Ghana pending judgment in court. Possible consequences are:
- Possible sizeable increases in the financial penalty
- The vessel will be in detention until the court case ends, which may take several years
- The master and chief engineer could receive sentence for up to 5 years
- The shipowner must pay all court charges and legal fees.
GMA fines for marine pollution violations
Except for sewage violations, Budd Ghana and Africa Marine Services (Europe) Limited both report that the GMA also target violations of garbage (MARPOL Annex V) and oily water (MARPOL Annex I).
Inspectors not only look for evidence of illegal discharge but also scrutinise the vessel’s records such as the oil record book and garbage record book.
It is understood that the fine amounts are non-negotiable, and the GMA will not accept any form of guarantee other than the aforementioned undertaking.