Chief Engineer Pleads Guilty to Concealing Vessel Pollution
WASHINGTON – Carmelo Oria, a Spanish citizen, who was the Chief Engineer on the Cyprus-flagged M/T Nautilus, pleaded guilty today to using falsified records that concealed improper discharges of oil-contaminated bilge water from the M/T Nautilus, the Justice Department announced.
The government’s investigation began in March 2008, when inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the M/T Nautilus, following the ship’s arrival in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and subsequently in the Port of Boston. The M/T Nautilus is a 26,794 gross ton chemical tanker owned by Cyprus-based Iceport Shipping Company Ltd., and operated by Spanish-based Consultores de Navegacion S.A. The inspections uncovered evidence that crewmembers aboard the ship had improperly handled and disposed of the ship’s oil-contaminated bilge water and falsified entries in the ship’s official oil record book to conceal these activities.
Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/T Nautilus generate large amounts of waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste containing more than 15 parts per million of oil and without treatment by an oily water separator—a required pollution prevention device. Law also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.
Oria served as the Chief Engineer aboard the M/T Nautilus between January and March 2008 and was responsible for all engine room operations. During that time, Oria ordered engine room crew members to discharge oil-contaminated bilge fluids from the ship’s bilges directly into the ocean. When the M/T Nautilus entered the Port of Boston on March 22, 2008, the ship’s log, which Oria was responsible for maintaining, failed to disclose the overboard discharge of oil-contaminated bilge water.
“Carmelo Oria ordered the ship’s crewmembers to bypass required environmental controls and pump oil-contaminated water from the ship’s bilge directly into the ocean. He then falsified the ship’s records in an attempt to conceal his actions,” said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “As long as individuals and companies continue to bypass this nation’s environmental laws, the Justice Department will continue to bring cases and seek justice for those involved.”
“Our hope is that this case will send a strong message to those in the maritime community who might try to circumvent our nation’s anti-pollution laws. It is necessary to ensure that the companies realize that violating our environmental laws will be taken seriously, and will ultimately cost them more than legally disposing of the waste,” said Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
“The Coast Guard remains committed to working with the maritime industry and federal, state and local law enforcement partners to protect United States environmental resources from those who choose to intentionally or negligently pollute our waters”, said Rear Admiral Dale G. Gabel, Commander of the First Coast Guard District in Boston, Mass. “When violations of federal laws are uncovered in the maritime realm, the Coast Guard stands ready and able to investigate these matters thoroughly. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure all violators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts, scheduled sentencing for April 13, 2009. Oria faces up to 6 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Investigative Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda M. Ricci of Sullivan’s Economic Crimes Unit, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard First District Legal Office, and Trial Attorney Todd Mikolop of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.