Thursday, October 1, 2009

Greek Carrier Banned From US Waters

First Use of New Law Sees Fines and Banishment for Shipping Line
Shipping News Feature

NEW ORLEANS, US – A Liberian owned, Greek managed vessel which offended against the Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act, a new law to prevent alien species entering US waters, has been at the centre of the first prosecution of its kind.

After pleading guilty to the offence and also further charges under the Prevention of Pollution and Ports and Waterways Safety acts the cumulative fines handed down yesterday amounted to $2.7 million. In addition the company, Polembros Shipping, based in Piraeus, Greece, had all of its 20 vessels banned from US territorial waters unti 2012.

This was not a simple case of unknowingly spilling some waste oil. Members of the crew conspired to disguise defects in the ship and its equipment to the extent that, when ballast tanks were found to be leaking, discharging waste water into the sea from a cracked rudder stem, no report was written up and no repairs effected. When other tanks, some illegally situated in the forepart of the ship, were found to be leaking oil into ballast tanks this was simply skimmed off and discharged directly into the ocean.

Shortly before arriving in US waters the crew fabricated a blind shaft within the inspection gates of the suspect tanks filling this with clean water so that the US Coastguard would not know of the pollution. When Coastguard officers checked the tank nothing amiss was found. When they opened the top hatch of the tank over one meter depth of oil was found floating on the ballast water.

Prior to the full inspection which the Officers now demanded, the crew removed the water filled obstruction device in an attempt to hide their knowledge of the parlous state of the ships equipment. They then presented the Coastguard with falsified logs to attempt to cover the subterfuge.

Rear Admiral Mary Landry, Eighth District Coast Guard commander said "This case clearly demonstrates the Coast Guard’s commitment to work with our interagency partners to aggressively enforce all maritime anti-pollution and safety of life at sea laws. The breadth and magnitude of the investigation that underpinned the charges brought forth is a testament to the dedication of all persons who were involved in resolving this matter”.

In addition to the fine, the company are to submit a further $100,000 in community service charges which will go toward the research into, and reparation of, alien marine species arriving via the ballast water carried by foreign oceangoing vessels.

Pic: Zebra Mussel, after invading US waters it was the creature most associated with the first draft of the Non-Indigenous Species Act in 1990.