Technical Newsletter on 24th August 2023
An ocean vessel operating under a foreign company pleaded guilty to maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water and garbage on board their vessel. In its plea, the Shipping Company has agreed to pay a total monetary penalty of $2 million.
According to court documents, the company and their personnel admitted that at least four times between June and October 2022 they dumped over 7,500 gallons of oily bilge water from the vessel into the ocean without first processing the oily bilge water through required pollution prevention equipment.
Details of the crime against the environment
The company also admitted that these illegal discharges were falsely recorded in the oil record book as having been made using the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment when the equipment had not been used. Oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel.
In addition to the illegal discharges of oily bilge water, the company and their personnel admitted that on at least three or four occasions between June and August 2022, they had burned garbage including paper, plastics and oily rags in barrels on the Star Maia’s deck. The barrels were then thrown into the ocean. This garbage burning and barrel disposal was not recorded in the vessel’s garbage record book, as required by law.
The Sector Commander Captain James W. Spitler of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector San Diego stated, “This prosecution highlights the Justice Department and the U.S. Coast Guard’s continued dedication in safeguarding our maritime environment against those that seek to deliberately harm our natural resources. Illegal dumping of oil, falsification of oil record books and flagrant disregard for air emission requirements are egregious violations. These guilty pleas should serve as a reminder that the Coast Guard and our partners at the Justice Department will work tirelessly to hold accountable those that seek to deliberately harm the maritime environment.”
The shipping company pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Diego to two felony violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). The plea agreement, subject to acceptance by the court, includes a $1.5 million fine and a $500,000 community service payment. The community service payment will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects to benefit marine and coastal natural resources located in or around the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Southern California. The company will also serve a four-year term of probation during which any vessels operated by the company and calling on U.S. ports will be required to implement a robust environmental compliance plan.
“Illegally dumping oily waste and garbage at sea poses a serious threat to the health and viability of the marine environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that those who violate environmental laws are held accountable for their criminal conduct.” Read more via the Press Release published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Handy links to get more information on VGP Compliance requirements and more.
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