WASHINGTON—Corpus Christi Day Cruise, Ltd., operator of the M/V Texas Treasure, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to pay $300,000 in criminal penalties half of which will go towards a community service program to benefit waters off of Corpus Christi and to serve four years of probation, the Justice Department announced. The ship’s chief engineer, Gojko Petovic, was also sentenced to three years of supervised probation.
Corpus Christi Day Cruise, Ltd., pleaded guilty to obstruction and Gojko Petovic pleaded guilty to making false statements during a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into whether the M/V Texas Treasure had illegally discharged waste oil and deliberately bypassed its pollution prevention equipment.
“The defendants intentionally obstructed the efforts of U.S. Coast Guard inspectors to ensure compliance with the law,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Vessel pollution is a serious concern and through our on-going enforcement efforts, we remain committed to working with the Coast Guard to prosecute cases of deliberate pollution and related cover-ups, and to deter others from engaging in similar acts.”
According to the plea agreement, on Oct. 25, 2004, U.S. Coast Guard inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector in Corpus Christi conducted a Port State Control Examination of the M/V Texas Treasure to determine the ship’s compliance with international and U.S. environmental laws and related regulations. Based on their observations, including the discovery of a significant amount of oil in the discharge piping of the ship’s Oily Water Separator, inspectors suspected that the ship was bypassing its Oily Water Separator and directly discharging oil waste overboard. Inspectors also reviewed oil-waste tank sounding records for the month of October and discovered several inconsistencies in the records.
As a result, inspectors asked the ship’s Chief Engineer, Gojko Petovic, to produce oil-waste tank sounding records for the months prior to October to compare them with the ship’s Oil Record Book. If the Oil Record Book is accurately maintained, the data in the Oil Record Book concerning the quantity of oil-waste onboard the vessel should correlate to the data in the sounding records. Chief Petovic stated that the ship only maintained tank sounding records for thirty days, after which time they were destroyed. However, a subsequent review of Chief Petovic’s computer revealed that tank sounding records existed dating back to December 2003, and that Chief Petovic intentionally deleted these records on October 29, 2004, while U.S. Coast Guard investigators were on the ship to examine his computer. A review of the tank sounding records indicates that they are inconsistent with the ship’s Oil Record Book.
Engine room operations on ships such as the M/V Texas Treasure—a Bahamian flagged ship that operated gambling cruises out of Port Aransas, Texas—generate large amounts of waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste containing more than 15 parts per million oil without treatment by an Oily Water Separator and oil sensing equipment—a required pollution prevention device. International and U.S. law also require that all overboard discharges be recorded in an Oil Record Book.
The investigation was conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard District Legal Office and from Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Investigations and Analysis. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.