The EPA stated that the Marine Pollution Control Act covers the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which extends 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the territorial sea. To better monitor the ocean for any pollution and illegal activities, the EPA has signed the Establishing Satellite-Based Marine Oil Monitoring Collaborative Activity agreement with National Central University’s Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research and the US NOAA. Hence, Taiwan’s territorial sea is to be regularly monitored by satellites, and the EPA will be informed if anything unusual happens.
The satellite images for this case were captured by the European satellite Sentinel-1 at 5:52:33 am on 9 October 2017. They noticed in the picture that a ship seemed to be discharging waste fuel off the coast of Kaohsiung. Based on the agreement on Taiwan-US environmental protection cooperation, the NOAA helped to interpret the images and verify the pollution caused by the oil discharge.
Meanwhile, the EPA also asked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Harbor and Marine Technology Center to assist in identifying the ship by using its automatic identification system (AIS). The Center discovered that the route of an Iranian vessel named Sarvin matched the oil track perfectly. Judging from the satellite images, the ship discharged about five metric tons of waste oil for at least two or three hours, leaving a pollution track that was almost 60 km long. Considering that illegal discharge is a serious violation of Article 29 of the Marine Pollution Control Act, the EPA decided to impose a heavy fine on the ship owner in accordance with Article 53 of the same Act.
Around 9 am on 4 March 2018, the EPA was informed by the Maritime and Port Bureau that the vessel Sarvin was going to dock at Kaohsiung Port that day. The EPA immediately notified related central and local agencies to organize a thorough inspection of the ship when it arrived. Moreover, the EPA asked the shipping agent in Taiwan for the Sarvin to inform the ship owner of the violation and the fine that had to be paid when the ship docked. The ship was requested to cooperate in accordance with the Marine Pollution Control Act.
After a negotiation, the ship owner authorized its shipping agent in Taiwan to handle the case. The agent took a copy of the penalty document and paid the fine.
The EPA emphasized that it will continue to monitor Taiwan’s water with high tech equipment such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles for illegal waste oil discharge, fuel transfer, or any other kinds of polluting behavior. The EPA will also collaborate with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Coast Guard Administration to conduct further investigations and on-board inspections. By doing so, the EPA aims to deter such violations from occurring again.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)