Two German shipping companies will pay a $1.2 million fine and their ships will be barred from U.S. ports and waters for five years after they pleaded guilty in a commercial cargo vessel’s illegal dumping of oily waste off Alaska and Texas, federal officials said Friday.
According to U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler’s office, two cases against Nimmrich & Prahm Bereederung and Nimmrich & Prahm Reedrei, the owners and operators of the M/V Susan K, were handled Friday morning in a single court proceeding in Texas. The firms pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing justice and concealing the illegal dumping of oil at sea.
Federal and international law requires that cargo vessels discharging oily bilge waste water either use a device known as an oil water separator or do so at shore facilities. In addition, any discharges of oily waste water must be recorded in an oil record book made available to Coast Guard officials during inspections.
“According to the plea agreement, the chief engineer and other crew members on board the vessel repeatedly discharged oily bilge waste water from the vessel into the ocean from before August 1, 2011, to March 4, 2012, by using a hose that bypassed the vessel’s OWS,” prosecutors wrote. “The Chief Engineer then falsified the vessel’s oil record book to conceal the dumping from Coast Guard inspectors when the vessel entered U.S. ports in Alaska on January 24, 2012, and again in Houston, Texas on March 4, 2012.”
The case came to light when a “lower level crew member” mentioned the illegal dumping to the Coast Guard, which boarded the Susan K in Houston on April 6 and found the hose used during the incidents.
“During the inspection, the Chief Engineer lied to the Coast Guard about the hose and the oil dumping and instructed a crew member to lie to the Coast Guard about the use of the hose,” prosecutors wrote.
The federal District of Alaska filed one count of obstruction of justice against the firms, while the Southern District of Texas filed several counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
Some $200,000 of the companies’ fine will go to the National Marine Sanctuaries Fund as a community-services payment, while the court awarded $67,000 to each of three whistleblowers in the vessel’s crew who aided the criminal investigation.
The Susan K’s chief engineer has previously pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in Texas, receiving a $1,000 fine and one year of probation.
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