Companies and Engineers Convicted of Pollution Crimes
A federal jury in Greenville, North Carolina, has convicted Oceanic Illsabe Limited, Oceanfleet Shipping Limited, and two of their employees of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), obstruction of justice, false statements, witness tampering, and conspiracy.
Oceanic Illsabe is the owner of the M/V Ocean Hope, a large cargo vessel that was responsible for dumping tons of oily waste into the Pacific Ocean last year. Oceanfleet Shipping Limited was the managing operator of the vessel. Both companies operate out of Greece.
Also convicted at trial were two senior engineering officers who worked aboard the vessel, Rustico Ignacio and Cassius Samson.
The operation of marine vessels, like the M/V Ocean Hope, generates large quantities of oil sludge and oil-contaminated waste water. International and U.S. law require that these vessels use pollution prevention equipment, known as an oil-water separator, to preclude the discharge of these materials. Should any overboard discharges occur, they must be documented in an oil record book, a log that is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. The evidence presented to the jury showed that in June 2015, the vessel discharged around ten metric tons of sludge into the ocean. The vessel was also regularly pumping contaminated water directly overboard. None of these discharges were disclosed as required.
“While the vast majority of vessel owners, operators, and crews who do business in the United States follow our environmental laws, every year, a few unscrupulous commercial mariners obstruct justice in an attempt to hide from the Coast Guard the intentional discharge of large quantities of pollutants into the oceans,” said Rear Admiral Meredith Austin, commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District. “Coast Guard Marine Inspectors and the Coast Guard Investigative Service, in concert with the Department of Justice, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who do this.”
The companies could be fined up to $500,000 per count, in addition to other possible penalties. Ignacio and Samson face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice charges.
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