German Shipping Companies convicted in Alaska and Texas for Environmental crimes
Anchorage, Alaska B U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that two German shipping companies pled guilty today to obstructing justice and concealing the illegal dumping of oil at sea. The Defendants pled guilty in federal court to criminal charges filed in both Alaska and Texas charging that crew members of the cargo vessel M/V Susan K intentionally dumped oily waste at sea and then took steps to conceal it from the United States Coast Guard. These cases were procedurally handled in a single court proceeding early today in Texas.
Nimmrich & Prahm Bereederung and Nimmrich & Prahm Reedrei, the operators and owners of the commercial cargo vessel M/V Susan K, will pay a $1.2 million dollar criminal penalty, $200,000 of which will go to the National Marine Sanctuaries Fund as a community service payment. As a condition of probation, all vessels owned or operated by the defendants will be prohibited from entering U.S. ports or waters for five years.
Federal and international law requires that cargo vessels like the M/V Susan K dispose of oily bilge waste water by using an Oil Water Separator (OWS) or disposing of the waste at facilities located on shore. The law also requires that the crew record the disposal of oily waste water in an oil record book that is presented to the Coast Guard during port inspections.
According to the plea agreement, the chief engineer and other crew members on board the vessel repeatedly discharged oily bilge waste water from the vessel into the ocean from before August 1, 2011, to March 4, 2012, by using a hose that bypassed the vessel’s OWS. The Chief Engineer then falsified the vessel’s oil record book to conceal the dumping from Coast Guard inspectors when the vessel entered U.S. ports in Alaska on January 24, 2012, and again in Houston, Texas on March 4, 2012.
According to court documents, the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Houston, Texas, on April 6, 2012, after receiving a tip from a lower level crew member about the illegal dumping of oil and found the hose used to dump the oily waste overboard. During the inspection, the Chief Engineer lied to the Coast Guard about the hose and the oil dumping and instructed a crew member to lie to the Coast Guard about the use of the hose. Three whistle blowers on the vessel assisted in the criminal investigation and they were each awarded $67,000 by the court.
The companies plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice filed in the District of Alaska, and separate counts for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in the Southern District of Texas. The Chief Engineer of the vessel previously pled guilty to one criminal charge in Texas and was fined $1,000 and sentenced to one year probation.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. It is was prosecuted by David P. Kehoe, Senior Trial Attorney, Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section, Gary Cobe, Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, and Kevin Feldis, Assistant United States Attorney, District of Alaska.