USA: Companies pleaded guilty to pollution charges

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(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) Two related companies that operated the motor tanker PS Dream – Prive Overseas Marine LLC and Prive Shipping Denizcilik Ticaret – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, knowingly violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and obstruction of justice related to the falsification of the tanker’s Oil Record Book, which is a required log.

The guilty pleas were entered in federal court in New Orleans before a Chief U.S. District Court Judge. If the court approves the plea agreement, the companies will be fined a total of $2 million and serve four years of probation. Separate charges have been filed against Captain Abdurrahman Korkmaz, a Turkish national who was the ship’s master.

The criminal case stems from the report of a crew member who, on Jan. 11, 2023, contacted the Coast Guard in New Orleans, which was the next port-of-call, and shared a video showing oil being pumped overboard and trailing behind the tanker. When the ship arrived in New Orleans two weeks later, this individual and another crew member blew the whistle and provided evidence to the Coast Guard. Video and photographic images were filed in court today by the prosecutors.

“Deliberate pollution from ships, intentional falsification of records and obstruction of justice are serious environmental crimes that will be vigorously prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Maritime laws regulating pollution from ships are intended to ensure that ocean waters are not used as a dumping ground.”

“This case involved deceit and willful pollution, and this prosecution is intended to hold both the corporations and individuals accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Criminal prosecutions are needed to deter deliberate efforts to circumvent our Nation’s anti-pollution laws. Importantly, $500,000 of the criminal penalty will go toward environmental protection of the marine environment in our area.”

“Today's outcome sends a powerful message: those who falsify logs and take deliberate actions to conceal pollution will face significant consequences,” said Captain Greg Callaghan, Deputy Commander of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector New Orleans. “The Coast Guard and our partners remain steadfast in our shared commitment to safeguarding our waters and holding accountable those who threaten our marine ecosystems. We encourage individuals to continue reporting any suspicious activities, as each report plays a crucial role in protecting the marine environment."

“It is long past time for the maritime industry to meet its obligations under international law and stop illegal pollution from ships,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Illegal ocean dumping and falsifying records to conceal those violations will not be tolerated by EPA and our federal law enforcement partners.”

The falsified logs, presented to the Coast Guard during its inspection, were intended to conceal the fact that the crew had dumped oil-contaminated waste overboard on the voyage to New Orleans and was not complying with MARPOL Annex I, an international treaty regulating oil pollution from ships. According to court documents, the ship’s master ordered crew members to pump overboard from the residual oil tank, which contained oily waste. A portable pump placed inside the tank and connected to a long flexible hose was used to discharge directly into the ocean without any required pollution prevention equipment or monitoring. The waste oil, including sludge, originated in the engine room and had been improperly transferred into the residual oil tank on the deck of the ship by a prior crew. Senior managers at Prive Shipping were aware that the oil-contaminated waste remained in the tank and were informed by the ship’s master that it had been dumped overboard.

The proposed $2 million criminal penalty includes $500,000 in organizational community service payments that will fund various maritime environmental projects in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Those projects will be managed by the congressionally established National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The court also has authority to award up to $500,000, half of the APPS portion of the fine, to the whistleblowers that provided evidence leading to conviction.

Prive Overseas Marine is based in Dubai and Prive Shipping is based in Turkey. The corporations were charged with four felonies: conspiracy, an APPS violation and two counts of obstruction of justice. Captain Korkmaz was charged with two counts: a violation of APPS and obstructing the Coast Guard’s inspection of the ship.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service and the EPA Criminal Investigations Division investigated the case with assistance from USCG Sector New Orleans.

 

Source: US DOJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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