Vessel Operator Sentenced to Pay $525,000 for Environmental Crime
WASHINGTON – A federal district court in Maine sentenced Petraia Maritime Ltd., late yesterday, to pay a fine of $525,000 and serve two years probation for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships (APPS), the Justice Department announced.
Petraia had been convicted following a jury trial in May 2007 of failing to maintain a record of its overboard discharges of oily bilge waste, which it made without using required pollution control equipment, from the M/V Kent Navigator, a vessel that it owned and operated. Two chief engineers serving aboard the Kent Navigator had previously pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Coast Guard for their role in the attempted cover-up of Petraia Maritime’s discharges of oily waste.
“This sentence should make clear that the shipping industry will continue to pay penalties if they fail to abide by laws protecting the environment when they choose to enter any United States port,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“This case sends a clear message to vessel operators and mariners that dumping waste at sea and covering up pollution are serious crimes that will be prosecuted. We take our stewardship of our oceans very seriously and will continue to pursue cases like this,” said Rear Admiral Timothy S. Sullivan, Commander of the First Coast Guard District.
“My Office will continue to aggressively pursue those vessel operators and mariners whose actions threaten Maine waters and violate the integrity of their recordkeeping obligations,” said Paula D. Silsby, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine.
The government’s investigation began in August 2004, when the U.S. Coast Guard received an anonymous tip that a vessel bound for Portland, Maine, was illegally discharging its waste oil and bilge while at sea. MARPOL, a treaty signed by more than 135 countries representing approximately 97.5 % of the world’s commercial tonnage and implemented into U.S. law by the APPS, limits the oil content of discharges from ships to no more than 15 parts per million. Oil pollution control equipment, called an oil water separator, is equipment required by these laws that, when operated correctly, will prevent discharges of oil in excess of 15 parts per million.
The Coast Guard inspected the Kent Navigator when it entered the port of Portland and found oily residue in piping that led to overboard discharge valves and inoperable oil pollution control equipment. The Coast Guard’s investigation revealed that while the vessel was at sea, the ship’s crew discharged waste oil tanks and bilge tanks directly overboard and also discharged the bilges in a way that circumvented the ship’s oil water separator. These discharges, which numbered 13 over eight months, were usually in excess of 5,000 gallons each and resulted in the discharge of significant quantities of oil. In addition to entering port in Portland in August 2004, the investigation revealed that the Kent Navigator had entered the Portland port on numerous prior occasions.
To conceal this illegal discharge activity, Petraia’s employees falsified records in the ship’s oil record book, making it appear as if the discharges were made using the required pollution control equipment when in fact they were not.
The investigation was conducted by Special Agent Daniel Bradford, of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, with assistance from the Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, the Coast Guard First District Legal Office, and the Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Investigation and Analysis. The case was prosecuted by Wayne Hettenbach and Kevin Cassidy of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine.
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