ECM and PL Ferrari explain shipowners the US environmental laws

Highlighted by the slogan ‘Investigate–Criminalize–Prosecute’, the conference ‘Maritime Environmental Compliance & the US Perspective’ – organised by the international consulting company ECM Maritime Services, LLC (represented by chairman and CEO Michael Minogue and vice-president Nishit Kapoor), and hosted in its Genoese headquarters by the P&I broker PL Ferrari (represented by Massimiliano Villa) – was attended by some fifty shipowners and shipmanagers and provided an insightful overview on the complex and stringent US regulations on maritime pollution.

Among the speakers, lawyer Michael G. Chalos, who assisted dozens of owners in US prosecutions for environmental violations, and syndicate director David Roberts of Charles Taylor (Standard P&I Club), who explained the main features of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), the American law absorbing the various chapters – ‘Annexes’ – of the international convention on maritime pollution (MARPOL). The US, which recently ratified the sixth Annex, are well-known hardliners in MARPOL interpretation so that the prosecution initiated by the Coast Guard, besides the arrest of the ship and substantial fines, can end up with a sentence to jail. Therefore, both parties – i.e., the company as defendant and the Department of Justice as prosecutor – quite often have recourse to a Plea Agreement (bargain) setting the fines (in some cases higher than 30 million dollars) and a very costly and complex Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) over a period of 3 to 5 years. ECM’s representatives stressed that such figures could even affect a company’s own survival and that ship owners and managers should take adequate action to avoid so dire consequences. Nishit Kapoor noted that the only way to avoid ECP in case of pollution is to voluntarily adopt an Environmental Management System/Compliance Program (EMS/CP) under the Coast Guard’s ‘Voluntary Disclosure Policy on Environmental Crimes’ regulation of 2007, by which companies infringing the environmental laws will not be reported to the Department of Justice. At the end of the conference, Minogue said he was very satisfied with its feedback and that they are already planning a new meeting in Japan, maybe next September. ECM was established in 1990 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and operates in Europe since 2005 through its Rome-based subsidiary ECM Europe Srl, which recently inaugurated offices at the tourist port in Ostia (Rome). The company offers its customers specific and operative assistance to implement the countless and frequently complex national Environmental Management Systems, including the implementation of the above-mentioned EMC/CP. “The lack of a correct information on environmental regulations in force leads quite usually to their breach” noted Minogue.
Francesco Bottino

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