Boat Operator Sued For Removal Costs of WWII Tugboat

The U.S. government sued Tutahuco Inc. in the Middle District of Florida for $2.7 million after the government paid for the cleanup of a World War II era tugboat and the oil it discharged. The complaint claims there was a “substantial threat” of additional oil discharge from the boat into the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida. 

The tugboat was purchased by the company in 2015. It was aground in the waterway on February 8, 2017 when the Coast Guard determined it was the source of oily waste in the area. The complaint stated that the boat was in the Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve which is designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area. The sheen reached at least 1.2 miles downstream from the boat and discharged about 200 gallons of waste oil.

The complaint stated that the costs were paid by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The fund is used in similar situations and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center. The fund is financed by parties who are responsible for former spills or abandoned boats with a substantial threat for an oil spill. 

A notice letter was sent to Tutahuco President Kenneth Ihlenfeldt in August of 2017, and a bill was sent for $2,715,118.49 in April 2019. The government requested that the court enter a judgment against the defendants and that they are required to pay the amount owed.