WASHINGTON—Aksat Denizcilik Ve Ticaret A.S., a Turkish corporation that operated the commercial ship M/T Kerim, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., to two felony counts for knowingly failing to fully and accurately maintain an oil record book, which tracks pollutant discharge, the Justice Department announced.
During the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Lazzara sentenced the company to pay a $725,000 fine and to serve three years of probation. The court also ordered the company to implement an environmental compliance plan.
Federal and international law requires that all ships comply with pollution regulations requiring the proper disposal of oily waste water and sludge by passing the oily waste through an oil-water separator aboard the vessel or burning the sludge in the ship’s incinerator. Federal law also requires the ship’s crew to record accurately in an oil record book each transfer or disposal of oily waste water and sludge. These laws are designed to prevent pollution of ocean waters.
According to the plea agreement, Aksay operated the Kerim between at least 2006 and 2009. On March 24, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard, based on information from several of the Kerim’s crew members, boarded and inspected the Kerim at the Port of Tampa and discovered a "magic pipe" used to bypass the ship’s oil pollution prevention equipment. Officers and crew members, acting on behalf of Aksay, had constructed and used the pipe to discharge oil sludge directly into the ocean. The "magic pipe" discharges were not recorded in the Kerim’s oil record book.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.