Bilge Dumping

NASA Earth Observatory image modified by SkyTruth

Bilge Dumping Landing

Bilge Dumping

NASA Earth Observatory image modified by SkyTruth

A vessel suspected of bilge dumping.

MV PERKASA, courtesy IBT

MV PERKASA [source: IBT].

“This year, the group that really stood out for me in terms of keeping tabs on the polluting energy class (as well as other environmental ne’er-do well) is SkyTruth. The company’s use of satellite imagery has provided valuable data to the masses — often showing the true scale of energy disasters, when corporations try to downplay them.”

What is bilge dumping and what is SkyTruth doing about it?

Bilge dumping occurs when cargo vessels and tankers illegally dump oily “bilge water” into the ocean. Most modern cargo and container vessels use heavy oil for fuel, which produces a thick, oily sludge that drains into the bottom of the vessel and needs to be emptied regularly. International law specifies how bilge water should be treated to protect ocean ecosystems. But SkyTruth has discovered that many ships bypass costly pollution prevention equipment by simply flushing the bilge water directly into the sea. And they routinely get away with it.

SkyTruth has analyzed satellite imagery from around the world for years documenting bilge dumping. Going forward, we are automating the analysis of thousands of satellite images every day through machine learning algorithms that identify bilge dumping globally. We are creating a database and notification system that informs governments, activists, researchers, businesses, journalists and others about this common illegal practice; finally holding violators accountable for their actions — actions that currently remain unseen by most, far at sea. We call this project Cerulean.

Our goal is to stop oil pollution at sea. We hope you will join us.

Bilge Dumping in the News

Coastal communities, governments and activists increasingly are recognizing that bilge dumping out at sea is a problem for them at home.