Voluntary Environmental Compliance Program (VECP)
Environmental Management System/Compliance Program – Environmental Crimes Voluntary Disclosure Policy
Since 2002 ECM has been involved in a variety of independent roles on a number of instances where the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has pursued vessel owners, operators and/or managers for criminal prosecution of MARPOL violations.
When ECM acts in the capacity of a Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) or Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) auditor, we do so on an independent basis representing both the vessel interests and the US DOJ.
Since 2005 ECM Europe is assisting ECM to conduct audits and inspections in Europe, required under agreements reached between the vessel owners and the U.S. DOJ, on an unbiased basis and to report our findings, observations and recommendations to all parties.
Over the course of the last few years some ship owners have requested ECM to conduct these same kinds of environmental audits in their shore side, in vessel operation office and/ or on board their own vessels. These clients have used this audit process to assess their own compliance policy and procedures, and improve upon what they currently have in place. In some instances ECM Europe has even assisted these clients in putting together their Environmental Management System (EMS) Manual to dovetail with their existing ISM Manual and/or Health, Safety & Quality Manual.
ECM has previously reported on the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) aggressive examination of and resultant pursuit of MARPOL violations with respect to such offences as, bypassing the oily water separator (OWS), misusing the OWS and improper recordings in the oil record book (ORB).
In such occasions, the USCG in cooperation with the U.S. DOJ have pursued such violations on a criminal basis resulting in fines, penalties, audit programs and probation periods.
On November 2007, the USCG has announced a formal policy on the voluntary disclosure of MARPOL violations.
In those instances where a ship owner, operator and/or manager promptly and voluntarily reports a MARPOL violation to the USCG, the USCG will NOT recommend criminal prosecution of the company provided certain criteria are in place as follows:
- The violation must be discovered AND reported, before the USCG and/or any other regulatory;
- The agency discovers the violation;
- The violation is reported in writing within 21 days from its discovery;
- The violation has not occurred previously on board the same vessel within the last 3 years or on board of another vessel in the fleet within the last 5 years.
In addition to the above, the company reporting the violation to the USCG under the voluntary disclosure policy must already have in place the same processes, policies and procedures that would have been required had the company been subject to an environmental compliance program (ECP) under an agreement with the US DOJ. That is:
- A company environmental policy that clearly prohibits such violations;
- A clear-cut environmental management system that spells out for all shore side and vessel staff the company’s environmental processes and procedures;
- An audit system which includes third party audits to monitor and police the company’s practices and procedures in the field;
- Corrective actions that promptly address any incongruities.
The formal establishment of the Environmental Crimes Voluntary Disclosure Policy is significant in that companies that value compliance, and particularly environmental compliance, and have a stringent compliance program in place, are now at an advantage.
Advice of counsel should be sought to verify that the EMS meets the Policy requirements, and in advance of a disclosure, to confirm that such disclosure meets the Policy requirements. This will help ensure that the company and its employees are protected to the maximum extent possible when disclosing potential environmental crimes to the Coast Guard.
ECM / ECM Europe has prepared and assisted various Shipping Companies in Europe in implementing an Environmental Management Systems / Compliance Program (EMS/CP) as required by the USCG / USDOJ. ECM Europe conducts office and vessels EMS/CP Audits on behalf of USCG/USDOJ under the instruction of ECM Maritime Services, LLC.
Our approach comprises the following steps:
- Performing an “Environmental Management System Gap Analysis”;
- Development of the Environmental Management Compliance System (how-to manual and procedures);
- Training & Coaching for shore and shipboard personnel;
- Management Review assistance;
- Continuous Monitoring and Measurement Audits.