U.S. charges Liberian firm, shipowner, 3 others for environmental crimes

A federal grand jury in Charleston, South Carolina has returned an indictment charging Aegean Shipping Management S.A. and Aegeansun Gamma Inc. with obstruction of an agency proceeding, conspiracy and failing to keep accurate pollution control records, the Justice Department has announced.

Three engineering officers were charged with related offences.

The charges stem from the 2015 falsification of records and obstruction designed to cover up overboard discharges of oily mixtures and machinery space bilge water from the Liberian-flagged chemical tanker, MT Green Sky.

The vessel’s management company, Aegean Shipping Management of Liberia and the vessel’s owner, Aegeansun Gamma of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, are charged with failing to maintain an accurate oil record book as required by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), a U.S. law implementing the MARPOL convention. The companies were also charged with falsification of records, obstruction and conspiracy.

The individuals, Panagiotis Koutoukakis and Herbert Julian, both former Chief Engineers of the Green Sky, and Nikolaos Bounovas, the former Second Engineer onboard the vessel, were charged with aiding and abetting the failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, falsification of federal records and conspiracy. Julian is facing an additional obstruction charge.

The investigation into illegal activity onboard the vessel began in late August 2015 when the vessel arrived in the Port of North Charleston, South Carolina and members of the engine room staff told the U.S. Coast Guard that they had been ordered to bypass the ship’s oil water separator on multiple occasions. In a related case, on Feb. 18, the former captain of the Green Sky, Genaro Anciano, pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction for knowingly making false and misleading oral and written statements in an effort to impede the Coast Guard’s investigation of the bypass allegations.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Charleston on July 26.

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