Friday, June 19, 2015

More Prosecutions of Shipping Lines for Dumping Waste Illegally in US Waters

Perpetrators Could Face 20 Year Jail Terms Plus Million Dollar Fines
Shipping News Feature

US – The UK based operator of the refrigerated cargo ship, the Murcia Carrier has pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an accurate oil record book in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and providing false statements to the US Coast Guard concerning the vessel’s garbage record book. Norbulk Shipping UK was sentenced to pay a criminal penalty of $750,000 and placed on three years of probation. Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said:

“Our oceans are life giving and life sustaining resources that our country and our world depend upon. Ignoring perfectly legal and feasible ways to dispose of waste, the defendants chose instead to dump directly into the ocean. Today the company will pay a price for this inexcusable and criminal act.”

APPS requires vessels like the Murcia Carrier to maintain a record known as an oil record book in which all transfers and disposals of oil-contaminated waste, including the discharge overboard of such waste, must be fully and accurately recorded. Additionally, vessels like the Murcia Carrier must maintain a record known as garbage record book that fully and accurately records the discharge of all garbage into the sea from the vessel.

On April 27, 2014, crew members on board the Murcia Carrier dumped overboard several barrels containing hydraulic oil, at the direction of the vessel’s Chief Mate Valerii Georgiev. While Norbulk and Georgiev dispute the number of barrels dumped into the sea, the government believes that approximately 20 barrels were dumped overboard. The dumping occurred in international waters off the coast of Florida while the vessel was in transit from Costa Rica to New Jersey. The dumping was not recorded in either the ship’s oil record book or garbage record book as required. In an effort to conceal the dumping, crewmembers presented a US Coast Guard boarding team with a false oil record book and garbage record book when the vessel arrived in Gloucester, New Jersey.

On June 15, 2015, Georgiev also pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an accurate oil record book in violation of APPS. He is scheduled to be sentenced at a future date. US Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey, said:

“Illegal discharges at sea damage our environment and endanger those who work in and enjoy our coastal waters. As we have shown before, shipping companies that engage in these criminal practices and deliberately discharge oil and then lie about it to the Coast Guard will be prosecuted.”

One of the other companies that Fishman was possibly referring to could be Norwegian based Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab AS (DSD Shipping) which last week was charged in a second indictment, along with an Engineering Officer, for environmental crimes and Obstruction of Justice. A federal grand jury in Lafayette, Louisiana, has returned a three-count indictment charging and four employees with violating APPS and obstruction of justice in connection with the illegal discharge of contaminated waste-water directly into the sea.

DSD Shipping and four of its employees Daniel Paul Dancu, of Romania and Bo Gao, Xiaobing Chen, and Xin Zhong, of China were previously indicted in the Southern District of Alabama with a seven-count indictment charged with pollution related conduct.

According to the indictment, in 2014, DSD Shipping and its employees discharged oil-contaminated waste water generated aboard the Stavanger Blossom directly into the sea. To hide the illegal discharges, DSD Shipping and its employees maintained a fictitious oil record book that failed to record the disposal, transfer, or overboard discharge of oil from the vessel. The indictment further alleges that prior to an inspection by the US Coast Guard, Chen ordered crewmembers to remove piping connected to the vessel’s overboard discharge valve, install new piping, and repaint the piping to hinder an inspection by the US Coast Guard.

DSD Shipping and the engineering officers were charged with violating the APPS for failing to record overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil record book and with obstruction of justice for presenting false documents and deceiving the Coast Guard during an inspection in the Port of Lake Charles. If convicted, DSD Shipping could be fined up to $500,000 per count, in addition to other possible penalties. Dancu, Gao, Chen and Zhong face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice charges.