GREEK SHIPPING COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY IN “MAGIC PIPE” POLLUTION SCHEME
Calypso Marine Agrees to $1,000,000 Fine for Dumping Oily Waste
CALYPSO MARINE, a Greek Shipping Company, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma yesterday, in connection with a scheme to dump oily waste at sea instead of using environmentally sound disposal methods as required by law. As part of the plea agreement, the company has agreed to a $1,000,000 criminal fine. A portion of the fine will be used for environmental restoration projects in the Columbia River estuary and the coasts of Oregon and Washington.
According to the plea agreement, on May 21, 2007, the motor vessel (M/V) Tina M, a 35,000 ton bulk carrier was anchored in Kalama, Washington when the Coast Guard conducted an inspection. The vessel’s Chief Engineer presented inspectors with an Oil Record Book, a legally mandated document, indicating that oily waste had been properly disposed of using pollution protection equipment. However, inspectors located two sections of fixed piping that had been hidden in storage areas within the vessel. With the assistance of vessel crew members, inspectors learned the pipes were used to bypass the oil water separator so that the oily waste could be dumped directly overboard while the vessel was on the high seas. Crew members had been ordered to use the “magic pipe” to conduct discharge activities at night, using the cover of darkness to minimize the risk of detection. Crew members told the inspectors the pipes were removed and hidden several days before the vessel arrived at the destination port. According to the plea agreement, the Chief Engineer acting under the direction of the an engineering superintendent who boarded the ship in Astoria, Oregon, ordered crew members to paint over the flanges where the pipe had been connected so it would appear a bypass pipe had not been used. Inspectors found oily residue in the overboard discharge pipe system.
The Chief Engineer, JESUS SEDIGO REYES, who directed the discharge activity, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the U.S. Coast Guard earlier this month. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6, 2007.
Under the terms of the plea agreement which is subject to the court’s approval, $400,000 of the $1,000,000 fine will be paid to the Columbia River Estuarine Coastal Fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for projects to restore and protect fragile habitats. The projects must be on the lower Columbia River (below Bonneville Dam) or on the Oregon coast up to and including Tillamook Bay or the Washington coast, up to an including Willapa Bay.
Dumping oily waste on the high seas is a significant problem. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, concluded that the dumping of oily waste causes annually as much as eight times the amount of oil pollution from catastrophic spills such as the Exxon Valdez. The oil dumped at sea kills fish and wildfowl, and threatens the entire marine ecosystem. This is the seventh case involving the dumping of oily waste at sea investigated and prosecuted in the Western District of Washington since 2004. . "The personnel of Coast Guard Sector Portland will continue to vigorously seek out vessel operators that violate environmental laws and if we find such offenders, we will work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office to ensure criminal prosecution in the appropriate cases," said Captain Patrick Gerrity, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander Coast Guard Sector Portland and Captain of the Port of Portland. We are especially pleased that a large portion of the fine will be used for projects to restore and protect the environment of the lower Columbia River."
Under the terms of the plea agreement CALYPSO Marine must implement an Environmental Management System/Compliance Plan (EMS) to ensure there is no future dumping. The company will be on probation for four years, during which time it must allow access to all records by government investigators to ensure it is following all the procedures identified in the EMS.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Oesterle and Special Assistant United States Attorney Benes Aldana..
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.