Coast Guard Sector North Carolina Going Green

With the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (aka Pacific Trash Vortex) recently making news headlines again, ship borne generated garbage is as hot a topic as ever within the maritime industry.

Setting the standards for compliance with international garbage regulations, Coast Guard Port State Control inspectors have been trained to ensure foreign vessels have approved garbage management plans and the ship’s crews are strictly implementing their company’s refuse program.   

Recently, Coast Guard Sector North Carolina conducted a Port State Control examination on a foreign flagged freight ship that revealed a problem with garbage disposal in the port of Wilmington, N.C. During the inspection of this ship, an inordinate volume of plastic garbage was found onboard. In fact, when a crewmember opened the door to the vessel’s paint locker, three 55-gallon trash bags filled with plastic refuse fell out of the compartment, completely blocking access to the space.

The Coast Guard inspectors inquired as to why there was more plastic garbage than could fit in the designated storage area. They were told it was more economical to dispose of garbage at a U.S. port than those of other countries and their intention was to dispose of it while in the port of Wilmington. However, their request to dispose of the plastics was denied, because the facility was not able to accept the garbage. Since it is the shore side facility’s responsibility to accept garbage generated from foreign flagged vessels, the inspectors called the Sector’s facility inspection branch and requested an inquiry into the reason this vessel’s request for disposal was denied.  Further investigation revealed a systemic problem throughout our port with the waterfront facilities denying all requests of garbage disposal by foreign vessels.

Unbeknownst to Sector North Carolina, the contracted garbage disposal company, which was previously utilized by facilities, was purchased by a different company. The new company was no longer providing the foreign garbage service to the port’s waterfront facilities, which created a significant problem for all involved. Allowing vessels to continue operations without the provision of lawful garbage disposal creates safety hazards for the vessel’s crew and encourages illegal dumping. 

In an effort to resolve this problem, Sector North Carolina contacted all the waterfront facilities to determine which refuse companies were providing foreign garbage removal. When it was revealed that there were refuse companies that could provide services for the port, Sector North Carolina compiled all the information obtained. The Sector’s facility inspections branch then initiated numerous conferences with the waterfront facility managers, and together they brainstormed potential solutions to this shared problem.

The issue was quickly resolved when the facilities hired a company from out of state to service their refuse needs.  Sector North Carolina’s prevention branch’s interdepartmental cooperation and strong port partner relations contributed to resolution of this untenable situation, which adversely affected local industry and companies worldwide.