Ship Operator Pleads Guilty To, And Chief Engineer Indicted For, Violations Of The Act To Prevent Pollution From Ships And Obstruction Of Justice
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr. announced that today, MARINE MANAGERS LTD., a Liberian corporation headquartered in Piraeus, Greece, pled guilty to a two-count bill of information charging the company with knowingly failing to maintain an oil record book while in port and within the internal waters of the United States, and submitting a false document to the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition, MATTHAIOS FAFALIOS, 64, a resident of Greece and Chief Engineer of the Motor Vessel (“M/V”) Trident Navigator, was indicted yesterday on three related charges, specifically failing to maintain an accurate oil record book, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.
According to court documents, MARINE MANAGERS LTD., was the operator of the M/V Trident Navigator which transported bulk cargo between various ports and places in the world, including the Port of New Orleans and other locations in the Eastern District of Louisiana. On or about December 28, 2013, while the M/V Trident Navigator was sailing, FAFALIOS instructed the Second Engineer to construct a bypass system (often referred to as a “magic pipe”) that could be connected between the vessel’s bilge pump and overboard discharge valve. The purpose of the bypass was to discharge the contents of the ship’s bilge tank directly into the sea, circumventing the ship’s Oil Water Separator and Oil Content Monitor. On or about December 31, 2013, FAFALIOS ordered the Second Engineer to hook up the “magic pipe” and to discharge several metric tons of oily bilge waste from the bilge tank directly into the sea. The “magic pipe” was removed after the discharge was completed and the discharge was not recorded in the vessel’s Oil Record Book as required. FAFALIOS additionally confiscated a crew member’s cell phone which contained a photograph of the installed “magic pipe,” and caused that photo to be deleted.
On or about January 18, 2014, U.S. Coast Guard personnel boarded the M/V Trident Navigator while it was anchored in the Mississippi River near New Orleans. A tip from a crewmember led them to the discovery of the “magic pipe.” FAFALIOS was uncooperative and further obstructed the Coast Guard investigation by instructing crewmembers to deny knowledge of the “magic pipe.”
Although the actions of the crewmembers on the vessel were contrary to defendant MARINE MANAGERS LTD.’s written policies and procedures, the company accepts that it is vicariously liable for its employees’ actions.
MARINE MANAGERS LTD. faces a maximum fine of $500,000 for each count. Sentencing has been scheduled for October 2, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier.
For each of his three counts, FAFALIOS faces a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. In addition, he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of six years, five years, and twenty years for the records, obstruction, and witness tampering charges, respectively.
“The Coast Guard is committed to uncovering and investigating regulatory and criminal violations that threaten the health of our marine environment. The successful prosecution of this case is due to the outstanding cooperation between Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Department of Justice," said Rear Admiral Kevin S. Cook, Eighth Coast Guard District Commander.
The case against MARINE MANAGERS LTD was investigated by Special Agents of the United States Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service. Prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gregory M. Kennedy and DOJ Environmental Crimes Section Attorney Kenneth Nelson. The case against MATTHAIOS FAFALIOS was also investigated by Special Agents of the Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service. Prosecution is being handled by DOJ Environmental Crimes Section Attorney Kenneth Nelson and Assistant United States Attorney Emily K. Greenfield.