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Shipping Company to Pay $1.3 Million for Vessel Pollution Charges

WASHINGTON – Greek-based shipping company Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd. and Second Assistant Engineer Spyridon Markou were sentenced today in connection with dumping of bilge and wastewater into the ocean from the company’s ship, M/V North Princess, an ocean-going bulk cargo ship traveling to ports in the United States, the Justice Department announced. Kassian had pleaded guilty in July to charges that the company maintained false records in violation the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

Kassian was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $1 million, serve a term of probation of 30 months, and pay $300,000 to fund community service projects through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In addition, the shipping company will implement an environmental compliance program prevent such violations in the future.

Markou, the Second Assistant Engineer on the North Princess, was charged with obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty to an information charging him with making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard in relation to the agency’s inspection of the vessel in November 2006. He was assessed a fine of $1,000.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the North Princess generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oil water separator. The law also requires that all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

According to the plea agreements, the North Princess arrived in port in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 20, 2006. Following a tip from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officers, the ship was boarded by Coast Guard officials who conducted an inspection to determine the vessel’s compliance with national and international environmental laws. The Coast Guard’s inspection uncovered evidence that Kassian, acting through its agents and employees, knowingly failed to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book recording all disposals of oil residue and discharges overboard, in violation of federal law. Second Engineer Markou admitted, as part of his plea, that he made false statements to the Coast Guard regarding his knowledge of the ship’s use of an illegal bypass pipe to transfer oil-contaminated waste overboard.

Besides today’s sentencing, the court also made monetary awards to four witnesses under a federal statute which gives the court discretion to award up to half of the fine to persons who provide information leading to a conviction under the Act to Prevent Pollution by Ships. The Ship’s Wiper and Cook were each awarded $230,000, and two Third Engineers were each awarded $20,000.

The investigation was initiated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers, and was conducted by the US Coast Guard Investigative Service working with members of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Fla. The case was prosecuted by Counsel in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, John Irving; Senior Trial Attorney in the Environmental Crimes Section, Richard Poole; and John Sciortino, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Florida.