Ship’s Captain Convicted of Obstructing a Coast Guard Inspection
WASHINGTON – The former captain of a Panama-flagged cargo ship that discharged hundreds of plastic pipes into the ocean, was convicted yesterday by a jury in Mobile, Ala., for obstructing a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the vessel in the port of Mobile on Sept. 21, 2011. Prastana Taohim, 38, the captain of the M/V Gaurav Prem, was found guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Kenyen R. Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
At trial, witnesses testified that Captain Taohim ordered the ship’s chief officer to throw hundreds of plastic pipes into the ocean and not record the discharge in the ship’s garbage record book as required. The garbage record book is a required log regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. Taohim then knowingly made the garbage record book available during a Coast Guard inspection of the vessel in the Port of Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 21, 2011. The plastic pipes had previously contained insecticide and were used to fumigate a grain shipment. The discharge of plastic into the sea is prohibited under the International Convention to Prevent Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL.
Taohim was found guilty in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Alabama for obstructing the Coast Guard’s inspection of the ship. The jury also found the defendant guilty of one count of obstruction of justice related to covering up the pollution by creating a false and fictitious garbage log.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 15, 2012.
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division. Additional assistance was provided by the Coast Guard Sector Mobile, and U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District Legal Office. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney David O’Connell of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.