COMPANY OPERATING THE M/V POLYNEOS PAYS $1.2 MILLION FOR COVERING UP OF OIL POLLUTION, VIOLATION OF PORTS AND WATERWAYS SAFETY ACT, AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
Odysea Carriers, S.A., was sentenced to pay a $1.2 million dollar monetary penalty and placed on three (3) years probation by the Honorable Stanwood Duval as a result of the company’s guilty plea for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, and obstruction of justice, announced United States Attorney Jim Letten today.
Odysea operated the M/V Polyneos, a 37, 623 gross ton ocean-going bulk carrier cargo ship that called the Port of New Orleans on or about October 12, 2011. The law prohibits oil-contaminated wastes produced on vessels like the M/V Polyneos from being discharged overboard into the ocean if they contain more than 15 ppm concentration of oil. Sludge produced on vessels like the M/V Polyneos can only be disposed of by either (1) burning the sludge in an incinerator or (2) discharging the sludge ashore to a waste reception facility.
According to court records, since June 8, 2011, the engine room crew members used a hose to pump the contents of the bilge tank, bilge oil tank, and sludge tank directly overboard into the ocean. From June 8, 2011 until on or about October 16, 2011, the Chief Engineer of the M/V Polyneos covered up the illegal discharges of oil waste by falsifying the vessel’s Oil Record Book. All discharges of sludge or oily bilge waste from a vessel are required to be accurately recorded in the vessel’s Oil Record Book. The Chief Engineer made false entries in the Oil Record Book regarding the use of the incinerator to burn oil waste and sludge with the intent to conceal from Coast Guard authorities that dumping had occurred.
Prior to the M/V Polyneos entering the Mississippi River and during its voyage up the River, the Coast Guard was not informed of the at-sea repairs made to the vessel’s double bottom ballast tank number 3, port side, or any other cracks and leaks in the vessel’s ballast tanks. On or about September 27, 2011, while the M/V Polyneos was in route to New Orleans from Egypt, the crew found the double bottom ballast tank number 3, port side, to be taking in water at a location which had been repaired earlier in the year. Shore-side personnel with Odysea were notified of the ingress of water and through email directly instructed that engineers on board as to how to attempt a repair.
Despite having knowledge that there were prior cracks in the ballast tanks which were leaking and required repair at sea, Odysea did not notify the vessel’s class society or flag state to determine whether they were still clear for operation. Prior to the vessel entering the Mississippi River, the Coast Guard was not informed of the at-sea repair to the vessel’s double bottom ballast tank, no. 3, port side and internal leaks in the other ballast tanks. The M/V Polyneos proceeded up River to load cargo for its charter.
During the Coast Guard’s inspection of the vessel pursuant to their Section 89A authority the email from Odysea personnel was found revealing that a repair to the ballast had been made at sea prior to the vessel entering the Mississippi River and that there were multiple other areas of repair to other frames in the ballast tanks, port and starboard side. An underwater inspection was required to determine the extent of the damage and leaks in the vessel’s hulls. Multiple cracks and leaks were discovered in the starboard and port side of the hulls. In addition to the leak at the crack which was repaired at sea on or about September 27, 2011, another crack in the hull was found to be leaking.
Of the overall criminal penalty of $1,200,000.00 Odysea was sentenced to pay, $100,000 will be paid as a community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for use in the local Louisiana area. Odysea was also required to implement an Environmental Compliance Plan which will ensure that any ship operated by Odysea complies with all maritime environmental requirements established under applicable international, flag state, and port state laws. The plan ensures that Odysea’s employees and the crew of any vessel operated by Odysea are properly trained in preventing maritime pollution. An independent monitor will report to the court about Odysea’s compliance with its obligations during the period of probation.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. The case was prosecuted by Emily Greenfield and Dorothy Manning Taylor.
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