Two Liberia-based shipping companies pled guilty on Friday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, to failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on one if its vessels, as well as violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) by showing false documents to the Coast Guard in an attempt to conceal the pollution.
The plea agreement includes a $1.8 million dollar criminal penalty.
The defendants, Nederland Shipping Company and Chartworld Shipping Company, are the owner and operator of the 13,049 gross ton M/V Nederland Reefer. The investigation began on February 2019, when the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment out of Lewes, Delaware conducted Port State Control Examination of the vessel.
During the course of the inspection, the Coast Guard determined that the vessel’s Chief Engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been repeatedly tricking the oil content monitoring device on the vessel’s OWS with fresh water, thereby discharging untreated oily bilge water overboard at sea. Mazarakis then falsified the vessel’s Oil Record Book (ORB) to conceal these illegal discharges from the Coast Guard.
Mazarakis pled guilty to a violation of the APPS for his falsification of the ORB. As part of his guilty plea, he also admitted that he took various actions to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation, including destruction of evidence and witness tampering.
The Coast Guard’s investigation also determined that on December 30, 2018, seawater began entering the vessel below the waterline through a hole in the vessel’s Bilge Holding Tank. This compromised of the hull’s integrity and the temporary repairs thereto, constituted a hazardous condition that Defendants failed to report to the Coast Guard, according to the Justice Dept.
Under the plea agreement, the companies will be placed on four-years of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan to ensure, among other things, that ships operated by Chartworld entering the United States fully comply with all applicable national and international marine environmental protection laws.