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US levies $1.8 million fine for pollution, ship's hazardous condition

Oct 17, 2019 09:47 AM

Oily waste was illegally discharged from M/V Nederland Reefer

The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Justice Department:

(WASHINGTON) — Two shipping companies incorporated in Liberia pled guilty Tuesday in federal court in Wilmington, Del., to failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on one if its vessels and to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) by presenting false documents to the Coast Guard that covered up vessel oil pollution.

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and David C. Weiss, U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, announced the plea agreement. The agreement includes a $1.8 million criminal penalty.

Defendants Nederland Shipping Co. and Chartworld Shipping Co. are the owner and operator of the 13,049-gt oceangoing refrigerated cargo/container vessel M/V Nederland Reefer. Large ships like M/V Nederland Reefer generate oil-contaminated bilge waste when water mixes in the bottom or bilges of the ship with oil that has leaked from the ship’s engines and other areas. This waste must be processed to separate the water from the oil and other wastes by using pollution prevention equipment, including an oily water separator (OWS), before being discharged into the sea. APPS requires that the disposal of the ship’s bilge waste be recorded in the ship’s oil record book (ORB).

The investigation began on Feb. 21, when the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment out of Lewes, Del., conducted a Port State Control examination of M/V Nederland Reefer. During the course of the inspection, the Coast Guard determined that the vessel’s chief engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been repeatedly tricking the oil content monitoring device on the vessel’s OWS with fresh water, thereby discharging untreated oily bilge water overboard at sea. Mazarakis then falsified the vessel’s ORB to conceal these illegal discharges from the Coast Guard.

On Oct. 2, Mazarakis pled guilty to a violation of the APPS for his falsification of the ORB. As part of his guilty plea, Mazarakis also admitted that he took various actions to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation, including destruction of evidence and witness tampering.

The Coast Guard’s investigation also determined that on Dec. 30, 2018, seawater began entering the vessel below the waterline through a hole in the vessel’s bilge holding tank. This compromise of the hull’s integrity and the temporary repairs thereto, constituted a hazardous condition that defendants failed to report to the Coast Guard.

Under the plea agreement, the companies will be placed on a four-year term of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan to ensure, among other things, that ships operated by Chartworld entering the United States fully comply with all applicable national and international marine environmental protection laws. The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor.

Trial attorneys David P. Kehoe and Stephen Da Ponte at the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmund Falgowski of the District of Delaware prosecuted the case. The case was investigated by the Coast Guard’s Investigative Service.

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