Japanese merchant ship “La Bamba” was fined $15,600 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for discharging its ballast water illegally into the Willamette River.

The Toyko-based ship, owned by Marine Ace Co. Ltd., was docked in Portland on May 19, berthed at the Columbia Grain Facility Terminal at 15550 N. Lombard St., when the discharge occurred, according to DEQ.

Ballast discharges can bring invasive marine or freshwater organisms into Oregon waters, and thus are considered environmental hazards.

DEQ alleges the ship discharged nearly 300,000 gallons of ballast into the Willamette. The ballast water originated in the upper San Francisco Bay estuary, which harbors numerous non-native species that represent a high risk for introduction into Oregon waters, DEQ says.

In a news release, the agency charged that the vessel owner “attempted to mask from DEQ the discharge of prohibited ballast water.”

Marine Ace Co. Ltd. has until Aug. 18 to appeal the penalty and request a hearing from DEQ.

The DEQ fine was smaller than it otherwise might have been because of the response of the operator after the violation was discovered, says Rian Hooff, DEQ ballast water project manager.

"In this particular case, the vessel operator, after being notified of the violation, undertook what we would describe as extraordinary measures to prevent additional noncompliant discharge," Hooff says. The crew interrupted work on the river and returned the vessel to the open ocean to complete its ballast water transfer, then returned to port. That cost the operator more than $150,000, counting costs of the delay, Hooff says.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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