Sentences in US for Marpol Violations
Other sentences were issued in the last four months in US due to Marpol Violations.
A Chief Engineer was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for obstructing a Coast Guard inspection that took place in May 2010 aboard a Liberian-operated cargo ship at the Port of Baltimore. In a related case, the ship-owner and operator of the vessel previously pleaded guilty to obstructing a Coast Guard examination and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The company was sentenced in February 2011 to pay a $2.4 million fine, and to serve three years probation, subject to an environmental compliance plan that includes audits by an independent third party auditor.
At his plea hearing, the Chief Engineer admitted that from about March 2009 through May 3, 2010, he repeatedly ordered his subordinates to illegally pump oil-contaminated waste directly into the ocean, most commonly through the “magic pipe.” However, during the investigation, teh C/E falsely denied having ordered anyone to pump oily waste overboard and falsified documents to hide these discharges from inspectors in ports visited by the Capitola.
The C/E also obstructed the investigation by concealing certain ship’s records and then denying that such records existed. Specifically, he concealed the vessel’s daily sounding record, which is a daily measurement of the contents of the ship’s waste tanks. This record would have been useful during the Coast Guard’s inspection of the vessel in that it could have shown when the levels of the waste tanks changed, which could be compared to entries in the oil record book. Sudden, unexplained drops in the measurements could have indicated specific dates when wastes were discharged overboard. The daily sounding record was not produced to the Coast Guard. the C/E also directed other members of the engine room crew to lie to investigators and claim that the vessel did not have a daily record of soundings.
Four corporations involved in owning and operating a fleet of vessels regularly visiting New Orleans were sentenced on 28 July 2011 to pay a $1 million penalty and banned from doing business in the United States for the next five years by Judge Carl J. Barbier, the Justice Department announced.
As part of the sentence, the court prohibited the shipping conglomerate from conducting further business in the United States during the maximum five year period of probation. The owner of the companies was also personally banned from being involved in the ownership or technical management of ships trading in the United States. Of the $1 million penalty, Judge Barbier ordered that $250,000 be devoted to organizational community service to help conservation, protection, restoration and management projects to benefit fish and wildlife habitats and resources in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The government’s investigation of the vessel started when a crew member told the U.S. Coast Guard during an inspection of the ship on Nov. 29, 2010, that the ship was illegally dumping sludge and oily waste overboard using a so-called “magic pipe” to bypass required pollution prevention equipment. The crew member provided the Coast Guard with cell phone photos taken at sea showing the use of the bypass. According to an agreed upon factual statement filed in court, the defendants have admitted the following:
- Sludge and oily waste from the vessel’s engines was transferred to a fuel tank and then deliberately pumped overboard.
- The ship had an unreported leak between a ballast and fuel tank that led to overboard discharges of oil contaminated waste from both tanks.
- A black “comet streak” stain of apparent oil was visible on the outside of the ship in the immediate vicinity of the overboard valve when the ship was in New Orleans in December 2010.
- The metal bypass pipe used to dump oily waste overboard was hidden from view when the ship was in port.
- A false Oil Record Book was created to conceal the illegal discharges. Ships are required to keep an Oil Record Book in which internal transfers and overboard discharges are fully recorded. The log is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard to assure compliance with U.S. and international law and to make sure ships are not a threat to U.S. ports and waters.
The defendants also were charged with violating the Ports and Waterways Safety Act because they failed to report a hazardous situation that threatened U.S. ports and waters, involving the failure of the ship’s generators. After a voyage in which the ship had lost power for several days at sea, the ship arrived at the Southwest Pass, La. The master, who opposed proceeding to port until the problem was corrected, was directed by a shore-side manager to write an email indicating that the ship had two generators. This was communicated to the Coast Guard which then allowed the ship to enter the Mississippi River. However, the agency was not told that neither of the two generators was fully operational or able to power the ship, and that there was no backup since a third generator was completely inoperable. Because of the hazardous situation, the master ordered tug boats to guide the ship into port.
On the other hand, the operator was sentenced on Sep. 29, 2010, for deliberate discharges in U.S. waters and concealing illegal pollution in falsified ship records from another vessel. In that case, U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of Louisiana ordered the defendant to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan and pay $700,000 in criminal fines and an additional $125,000 as community service payments. On April 27, 2011, the Judge revoked probation for the operator and banned the company’s vessels from further trade in the United States.
German Shipping Company Sentenced in Puerto Rico to Pay $800,000 Penalty for Intentional Cover-Up of Oil Pollution
On Sept 8, 2011 a German Shipping Company was sentenced in federal court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard, announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno and U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.
The company was sentenced to pay an $800,000 criminal penalty, to include a $200,000 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund a community service project in the District of Puerto Rico. In addition, the company was placed on three years of supervised probation and will have to implement a comprehensive advanced training and verification program to continuously monitor vessel operations and train crewmembers to prevent pollution from any ship it operates.
“ The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute shipping companies who break the laws that protect our oceans,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “The penalty imposed by this sentence not only holds Uniteam Marine fully accountable for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, but also will fund projects that rehabilitate damaged marine ecosystems in Puerto Rico.”
On May 10, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard in San Juan, conducted an inspection of the german owned vessel and discovered an excessive amount of oil in the discharge lines of the vessel’s oil water separator, a pollution prevention device designed to prevent the discharge of oily waste. When the device is operated properly, there should be no oil in the discharge lines. Subsequent investigation revealed that from Jan. 8, 2010, until May 10, 2010, the crew on the vessel manipulated the oil water separator so that is failed to function properly and allowed the illegal discharge of oily bilge wastes directly into the ocean.
All discharges of oil or oily bilge waste from a vessel are required to be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book. However, none of the illegal discharges were recorded in the oil record book for the vessel.
“This sentence should serve as an eye opener to vessel owners and operators that choose to violate federal and international environmental laws that destroy our marine environment,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, Sector San Juan Commander. “The U.S. Coast Guard is committed to protecting the maritime environment and works closely with our dedicated interagency partners and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring criminal environmental offenders to justice. This outcome would not have been possible without the outstanding investigative efforts and professionalism put forth by Sector San Juan pollution investigators and the Coast Guard Investigative Service who worked diligently with Department of Justice prosecutors to properly resolve this case.”
“Because we live on an island, the sea is without a doubt one of our most precious resources. This case should send a strong message that the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office will prosecute any entity which pollutes our environment to the fullest extent allowed by the law,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will receive $200,000 to fund projects aimed at the restoration of marine and aquatic resources in the District of Puerto Rico, including projects intended to protect and rehabilitate marine mammals and their habitat, including manatees.
During the period of probation, the germna Company will be required to implement an advanced training and verification program which will ensure that any ship operated by Uniteam complies with all maritime environmental requirements established under applicable international, flag state, and port state laws. The program ensures that Uniteam’s employees and the crew of any vessel operated by Uniteam are properly trained in preventing maritime pollution. An independent monitor will report to the court about Uniteam’s compliance with its obligations during the period of probation.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. The case was prosecuted by Marshal Morgan in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico and by Ken Nelson in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
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