WASHINGTON - A jury in Maine returned a guilty verdict against Petraia Maritime Ltd. late yesterday, for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships (APPS). Petraia was convicted of failing to maintain a record of its overboard discharges of oily bilge waste that 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 guilty verdict should send a message to members of the shipping industry that they must abide by laws protecting the environment if they choose to enter any United States port,” said Matthew J. McKeown, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Vessel operators and mariners should take note that deliberately dumping waste at sea and concealing it from our inspectors is a serious crime, and it simply will not be tolerated by the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Capt. Stephen Garrity, Commander Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “This jury verdict should be a clear reminder to those vessel operators who fail to recognize this.”
“My office will continue to work closely with the Environment and National Resources Division to ensure compliance with laws protecting our waters,” 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.