Jul 292009


They just don’t get it: Consultores de Navegacion, operators of the chemical tanker Nautilus have been fined $2.08m and put on probation for three years for discharging oily waste on the high seas while Carmelo Oria and Vadym Tumakov, chief engineers who ordered the discharge and falsified oil record books got hit with one month and a week in prison respectively plus a $2,000 fine for Tumakov.

Asks legal eagle Denis Bryant:

“How many more convictions of crewmembers and owner/operators will it take for the maritime industry to acknowledge that the US Coast Guard and the Department of Justice will fully investigate and vigorously prosecute cases involving the suspected falsification of the oil record book? Owners and operators must institute voluntary compliance programs to reduce the likelihood of such falsifications and crewmembers (particularly engineering officers) must adopt new practices. Internal company directives stating opposition to midnight dumping are ineffective and not legally sufficient to protect the company from prosecution.”

The company pleaded guilty on April 6, 2009, to conspiracy, falsification of records, obstruction, and two violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to maintain an accurate oil record book. The practice of improperly handling and disposing of oil-contaminated waste from the tanker took place from at least June 2007 until March 2008. Along with the $2.08 million fine, the court ordered the company to implement comprehensive environmental compliance plan to prevent future violations.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/T Nautilus generate large amounts of waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and US law prohibit the discharge of waste containing more than 15 parts per million of oil and without treatment by an oily water separator—a required pollution prevention device. Federal law also requires ships to accurately record each disposal of oil-contaminated bilge water in an oil record book and to have the oil record book available for inspection by the US Coast Guard within the internal waters of the United States.

According to the government, between June 2007 and March 2008, senior engineers on the M/T Nautilus directed subordinate engine room crew members to use a metal pipe to bypass the ship’s oil water separator and instead to discharge oil-contaminated waste directly overboard. On two occasions in August 2007, Vadym Tumakov, a Ukranian who at that time served as chief engineer of the M/T Nautilus, directed the discharge of pollution overboard. In addition, in February 2008, Carmelo Oria, a Spanish citizen who served as chief engineer at that time, directed a discharge directly overboard from the ship’s bilge wells.

Oria, who was the chief engineer on the M/T Nautilus between January and March 2008 pleaded guilty to maintaining an oil record book that concealed the improper discharge of untreated waste directly from the ship’s bilges and was sentenced on May 6, 2009 to serve one month in prison. Vadym Tumakov, who was the chief engineer on the M/T Nautilus in August 2007 pleaded guilty to using falsified records that concealed improper discharges of oil-contaminated bilge waste from the ship and was sentenced on April 13, 2009 to serve one week in prison and a fine of $2,000.

The government’s investigation began in March 2008, when inspectors from the US Coast Guard conducted an examination of the M/T Nautilus, following the ship’s arrival in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and subsequently in the Port of Boston. The inspections uncovered evidence that crewmembers aboard the ship had improperly handled and disposed of the ship’s oil-contaminated bilge water and falsified entries in the ship’s official oil record book to conceal these activities.

“Today’s criminal fine is another warning to corporate entities and crewmembers that deliberately bypassing required environmental controls and pumping untreated bilge water directly into the ocean is illegal and violators will be punished,” says John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “As long as individuals and maritime companies ignore this nation’s environmental laws, the Justice Department will continue to bring cases and seek justice for those involved.”

Given how hard it is to keep seafarers out of prison given the current fashion for clapping them in irons it’s hard to have much sympathy for those dumb enough to do what these did.

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