Bilge Dumping

A vessel suspected of bilge dumping.

MV PERKASA, courtesy IBT

MV PERKASA [source: IBT].

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 plan to automate the analysis of thousands of satellite images every day through machine learning algorithms that identify bilge dumping globally. We will create 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.

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