Monday, January 3, 2011

Now that we're deep into 2011, there will be no more lighthearted posts from here of Christmas trees, Santa Clause and New Year well wishing until 2012.

Let's get to a more serious matter. One that affects everyone. It's something we all have but none of us want. We actually pay people to take it away from us.

Yep, that's right.....TRASH

This heap of trash that is growing daily on the deck of our tug reminds me of how far we have come as an industry and as people in general. In 1973 when I first started sailing, this pile of trash would not be here, it would have been floating somewhere in the ocean.
And we wouldn't have been breaking any laws.

Flashback August 1972.
I'm aboard the oil tanker Eastern Sun running down the east coast of the U.S., working as a wiper in the sauna like room they called the engine room. By the way, the definition of a wiper is.." you do every nasty dirty sloppy hot disgusting job that no one else wants to do."

It's my 2nd day on board and I was told to empty all the trash from the engine room.
I would grab 2 cans of trash and walk the trash up out of the engine room, back to the poop deck. At the very stern on the poop deck near the handrail there was a large can shaped cylinder, with a lid, welded permanently to the deck. When I opened the lid of this device I could see the ocean passing by about 40 feet below. I was instructed to empty my trash into this cylinder and into the water. I would then go to the engine room and bring up buckets filled with dirty and used oil, which I would dump down this same opening into the warm blue water of the Atlantic Ocean.
I think the mindset of the times were, the ocean was so large, this little bit of trash and oil would have no lasting affect.
As we all know, this has been proven to not be the case.
Anyway, this was all perfectly legal at that time because we were what was called "OUTSIDE COASTAL WATERS." I can't recall the exact distance that was from the coast, but I'm guessing 12 miles.

On a larger scale, oil tankers would periodically clean their cargo tanks using a sea water washing system, and this combination of oil/water was discharged into the ocean.
Now I know why as a child walking on a Florida beach, the bottom of my feet would have tar on them. Seriously.
In 1954 there was a convention held that stated, a ship must be 50 miles off the coast to discharge oil into the ocean.
What genius came up with that idea.

Today all that has changed.
The MARPOL treaty of 1973 that actually went into law in the '80's states no oil or plastic is to be discharged into any ocean anywhere.
There is no longer sea water washing taking place at sea.
Now that's an improvement.
Today 169 countries acknowledge this treaty.

The law for a tug or boat of any kind, inside territorial waters is simple.
Nothing gets put in the water from the boat. No oil, trash, garbage, cigarette butts , paint chips, nothing.
The only thing going into the water from our boat is the shower drains and the sink drains, but as of next year, all those drains must be piped to a holding tank on the vessel.
At that point, everything will be held on the boat until we can get to a dock to have it lifted off or pumped out. A whole new industry is being born.

Some things do change for the better.


Jerral Miles said...

Mark, Your BLOG today stopped me in my tracks. Your acknowledgement that you were a participant, that you were culpable, that you spent some part of your life trashing the planet... reminds me that you are the very good person I've had the hunch you are. It also reminds me that I was a trasher and violator, too. Your excellent essay is a painful reminder that we weren't doing anything illegal, but that what we did routinely was violation nonetheless. There is hope for the life on this planet if more people can acknowledge responsibility as you have done in your writing. It's a reminder that we can be better. Thanks, Mark

Karen said...

What Jerral Miles said, beautifuly.

It's good to know that things are changing, that people are taking responsibility, that laws are being put in place to protect and that they are being following. Amen.

beth said...

these are some of the ins and outs of your boat life that we are clueless about....thanks for the info.

and wow....that trash....

Formerly known as Frau said...

Change is good if we all did our part what a difference it would make.

slommler said...

Wow! That is great! I am glad to hear of these changes.
I had no idea that is was "dump away" before. That is awful!

dcpeg said...

It took courage to admit that and I'm sure you hold a lot of regret, but that's how it was way back when.

One of my great uncles sailed a Bugeye on the Chesapeake and I always felt bad about flushing the head even if we weren't near a "swimming hole". Reading your post reminded me of my guilt and that we are all responsible for cleaning up our past mistakes.