DEBRA W. YANG
United States Attorney
Central District of California
Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer
January 14, 2005
CHIEF ENGINEER OF CARGO SHIP THAT DUMPED OIL-TAINTED
WATER INTO PACIFIC PLEADS GUILTY TO OBSTRUCTION
Corporate Owner of Vessel Agrees to Plead Guilty
The chief engineer the M/V Katerina, which arrived at the Port of Long Beach in September equipped with pipes to bypass an important water pollution-control device, pleaded guilty this morning to a federal charge of obstruction of justice for concealing the device from the Coast Guard and instructing crew members to lie to inspectors.
Edgardo A. Guinto, 49, of the Philippines, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper. By pleading guilty, Guinto admitted that he allowed the bypassing of the oil-water separator on the Katerina, that he instructed crew members to remove and conceal the bypass pipe when the ship came into Long Beach, and that he made fraudulent entries in the ship's pollution-prevention records known as the Oil Record Book.
Guinto is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4. The obstruction charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The parent company of the Katerina, DST Shipping, Inc. of Thessaloniki, Greece, has agreed to plead guilty to two felony charges related to this water pollution case. In a plea agreement filed last week, DST agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book.
In its plea agreement, DST acknowledges that "on numerous occasions" during an approximately six-month period in 2004 the Katerina discharged oil-contaminated bilge water and oil sludge into the ocean. Furthermore, the shipping company acknowledges that it directed the Katerina crew to conceal the bypass pipe from U.S. authorities.
DST is scheduled to be arraigned on a two-count criminal information on Tuesday. A representative of the company is expected to appear before Judge Cooper in the coming weeks to formally enter the guilty pleas.
There are two other defendants in the case:
- Ioannis G. Kallikis, 64, of Greece, who was the master, or captain, of the Katerina; and
- Rolan P. Sullesta, 42, of the Philippines, the second engineer on the ship.
Kallikis and Sullesta are charged in a 12-count indictment that alleges obstruction of justice, making false statements and failure to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book. They are currently scheduled to go on trial March 1.
The Katerina is a Maltese-flagged, 600-foot-long, 16,320-ton cargo ship that arrived at the Port of Long Beach on September 10. The Katerina, which was carrying steel products, berthed on September 14. According to court documents, crew members contacted dock workers and reported that they had been directed to throw trash, as well as to discharge sewage and oil, into the ocean. A transport workers union representative contacted the Coast Guard and asked for an inspection of the vessel.
On the night of September 14, Coast Guard inspectors boarded the Katerina and saw evidence that the ship's oil-water separator was not being used. Pursuant to United States law and international treaties, all large ships, such as the Katerina, are required to operate an oil-water separator to remove oil from bilge water that is discharged into the ocean. All such ships are also required to maintain a Oil Record Book, which is signed by the captain and must document all oil discharges.
A second inspection on September 15 revealed piping designed to bypass the oil-water separator. Inspectors also found evidence that oil had recently been discharged overboard from the ship.
This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division.
Release No. 05-009
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