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Press Release

German Shipping Corporations Convicted of Environmental Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Melanie Pierson (619) 546-7976    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 25, 2016

SAN DIEGO – Two German shipping companies that owned and operated the Motor Vessel “Nils B” pleaded guilty to an environmental crime in federal court today, admitting that they knowingly failed to keep records related to the discharge of sludge into the ocean.

W. BOCKSTIEGEL REEDEREI GmBH & CO. KG (which operated the vessel) and W. Bockstiegel GmBH & Co. Reederei KG MS “NILS B” (which owned the vessel), pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a), for failing to accurately maintain an Oil Record Book for the Motor Vessel (M/V) Nils B.

By not maintaining an accurate Oil Record Book, the firms failed to disclose that oil contaminated water had been discharged into the ocean from the vessel without the use of pollution prevention equipment. As admitted at the time of the plea, on August 5, 2014, personnel from the United States Coast Guard boarded the vessel after its entry into the Port of San Diego, California.  Once onboard, the Coast Guard discovered that the crew had failed to keep an Oil Record Book for a significant period of time, modifications had been made to piping coming from the Oil Water Separator, and oil was discovered in discharge piping that should not have been present.

The defendant acknowledged that Coast Guard examiners took oil samples from the Oil Water Separator’s overboard discharge valve and from the vessel’s sludge tank and the samples from the two locations matched.  Sludge is never to be discharged through an Oil Water Separator; only machinery space bilge water may be discharged in that manner. The Coast Guard also discovered a black hose near the Oil Water Separator that contained slightly weathered light fuel oil mixed with lubricating oil. In the industry, such a hose is known as a “magic hose” because it makes the oil and sludge disappear like magic.

The defendants, in pleading guilty, admitted that the Oil Record Book on board the vessel did not disclose any discharges of sludge between the time that the overboard discharge valve had been cleaned (while the vessel was in dry dock in June of 2014) and its entry into the Port of San Diego in August.

According to the plea documents, the company and the United States agree to recommend that the Court impose a total criminal penalty of $750,000, of which $250,000 will be a community service payment for the benefit of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve to further research related to the effects of pollution on the marine estuarine environment.

This case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division personnel in San Diego, California.  The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth E. Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 3, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw.

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 16cr2440                                           

W. Bocksteigel GmBH & Co., Reederei KG MS “NILS B”

Emden, Germany

W. Bockstiegel Reederei GmBH & Co. KG

Emden, Germany


Failure to Maintain Accurate Oil Record Book– Title 33, U.S.C., Section 1908(a)

Maximum penalty for a corporation: $500,000 fine


U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division



Updated October 25, 2016

Press Release Number: CAS16-1025-Reederei