Greek shipping companies fined $1.5m for pollution

A district judge in Seattle, Washington has sentenced the owner and operator of a Greek bulk carrier to a $1.3 million fine for the dumping of oily waste at sea.

The ship operator, Angelakos (Hellas) S.A., and the ship owner, Gallia Graeca Shipping Ltd., were found guilty in June 2016 of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, Falsification of Records in a Federal Investigation and engaging in a Scheme to Defraud the United States. In addition to the $1.3 million fine, U.S. District Judge Coughenour ordered a $200,000 community service payment to be shared between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Parks Foundation.

According to court records, the MV Gallia Graeca travelled from China to Seattle in October 2015 with an inoperable oily water separator. On three seperate occasions during the voyage, the defendants discharged overboard approximately 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water, and then attempted to conceal the incidents from the Coast Guard by making false statements to inspectors and making false statements and omissions in the ship’s oil record book. When Coast Guard inspectors asked the engineers to operate the oil water separator during the inspection, the engineers did so in such a way that the equipment appeared to be working properly even though it was not.

“When Coast Guard inspectors examined the oil water separator they found its filters were clogged with oil and found oil residue in the overboard discharge piping,” a Dept. of Justice press statement said. “Records indicated the oil water separator had not been serviced for months prior to the voyage from China. The defendants presented the Coast Guard with an official oil record book stating that bilge water had not been discharged during the voyage to Seattle. However, the Coast Guard investigation discovered evidence that oily water had been discharged into the sea three times on its voyage from China.”

During trial, prosecutors argued that the engineers tried to hide the pollution from the Coast Guard to avoid having the ship detained in Seattle.

“Keeping the ship on schedule was a benefit to the owners and operators who had a contract to move $25 million in goods out of Seattle,” the Justice dept. said. “Shipping company executives had been in contact with the engineers about how they should present the log book for the Coast Guard inspection.”

The companies were all placed on five years of probation and required to have environmental compliance plans in place which will ensure they are abiding by anti-pollution policies and regulations.

In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour for the Western District of Washington said he hoped the sanctions “would resonate and cause other companies to pause when they think about creating a corporate culture that encourages deception.”

The two engineers who operated the ship’s equipment and falsified the log books were sentenced to short prison terms before returning to Greece.

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