It's a big ocean out there, covering more than 70 percent of the globe, so it’s easy to imagine ship crews on the high seas in the dark of night thinking they can get away with dumping everything from garbage to waste oil straight off the boat.
Which they do, far too often.
Occasionally they get caught. Last week in Baltimore, a quartet of Filipino crewmen blew the whistle on bosses of the merchant ship Iorana. The crewmen slipped cell phone photos and a note to a customs inspector while the ship was docked in U.S. waters.
They exposed an apparently common trick: what the crew dubbed the “magic hose” was a 103-foot hose strung across the ship, bypassing the waste oil storage system and dumping 6,000 gallons of sludge and dirty oil straight into the Atlantic Ocean.
There are economic disincentives for such dumping—which no doubt goes on all over the world—and incentives for turning in offenders: The Greek company that owns the ship, Irika Shipping, was fined $4 million. The boss who ordered the dumping cannot work in U.S. waters for the next five years.
The crewman who wrote the note received a $250,000 reward. His three pals split another $250,000.