Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shipping Companies Convicted of Illegal Dumping of Oil at Sea

 Two German shipping companies, owners and operators of the commercial cargo vessel M/V Susan K, have pleaded guilty in Anchorage to obstructing justice and concealing the illegal dumping of oil at sea.

U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler said Nimmrich & Prahm Bereederung and Nimmrich & Prahm Reedrei will pay a $1.2 million criminal penalty, $200,000 of which will go to the National Marine Sanctuaries Fund as a community service payment.

As a condition of probation, all vessels owned or operated by the defendants are prohibited from entering US waters for five years.

Loeffler said the defendants pled guilty to criminal charges filed in both Alaska and Texas, charging that crewmembers on board the M/V Susan K intentionally dumped oily waste at sea, then tried to conceal it from the US Coast Guard.  Both cases were procedurally handled in a single court proceeding the same day in Texas.

Federal and international law require that cargo vessels like the M/V Susan K. dispose of oily bilge water by using an oil water separator or disposing of the waste at facilities located on shore. The law also requires that crew record the disposal of oily wastewater in an oil record book that is presented to the Board Guard during port inspections, staff said.

According to the plea agreement, the unnamed chief engineer and other unnamed crewmembers on board the vessel repeatedly discharged oily bilge wastewater  from before Aug. 1, 2011 to March 4, 2012, by using a hose that bypassed the vessel’s oily water separator.

The chief engineer then falsified the vessel’s oil record book to conceal the dumping from Coast Guard inspectors when the vessel entered US ports in Alaska on Jan. 24, 2012 and again in Houston, Texas, on March 4.

Court documents stated that the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Houston, Texas on April 6, 2012, after they were tipped off by a crewmember about the illegal dumping of oil, and found the hose used to dump the oily waste overboard. Then during the inspection, the chief engineer lied to the Cost Guard about the hose and the oil dumping and instructed a crewmember to lie to the Coast Guard about how the hose was used.

Three whistle blowers on the vessel assisted in the criminal investigation. Each of them was awarded $67,000 by the court.

The companies pled guilty to one count of obstruction of justice filed in the District of Alaska, and separate counts for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in the Southern District of Texas.
The case was investigated by the US Coast Guard Investigative Service.

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