Ship Operator Pleads Guilty to Crimes Related to Pollution from Cargo Ship Traveling to Corpus Christi
Company Has Agreed to Pay $1 Million Monetary Penalty
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A ship management company has pleaded guilty and was sentenced today for deliberately concealing pollution discharges from the ship directly into the sea and for falsifying its oil record book, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Rear Admiral David R. Callahan, Eighth District Coast Guard Commander. Chandris (Hellas) Inc. is headquartered in Greece and operated the M/V Sestrea - an 81,502 ton cargo ship that made calls in multiple ports in Texas.
Chandris pleaded guilty to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law, as well as a violation of making a false statement for making a false entry in the ship’s oil record book.
Shortly following the plea, U.S. District Judge Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the company to pay an $800,000 criminal fine along with a $200,000 community service payment to the congressionally-established National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The money will be designated for use in the Flower Garden and Stetson Banks National Marine Sanctuary, headquartered in Galveston, to support the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources located in and adjacent to the sanctuary.
Chandris was also sentenced to three years probation. As a condition of the probation, all ships Chandris manages and are involved in transporting crude oil will be forced to comply with an Environmental Compliance Plan.
“Environmental crimes continue to occur throughout the Eighth Coast Guard District,” said Callahan. “When companies knowingly fail to adhere to marine anti-pollution laws, it affects each and every one of us. The Coast Guard will not tolerate the pollution of our marine environment and endangering of the public health. I am grateful for the hard work, dedication and professionalism exhibited by Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas.”
According to the joint factual statement, on or about Dec. 18, 2014, the chief engineering officer on board the M/V Sestrea acting on behalf of Chandris used a hose to pump fresh water through the Oil Content Meter. Because of this, the meter was “tricked” into sensing that all of the oily bilge water being run through the Oil Water Separator within normal limits. As a result, the system discharged oily water in excess of 15 parts per million overboard into the sea.
Federal and international law requires that all ships comply with pollution regulations that include the proper disposal of oily water and sludge by passing the oily water through a separator aboard the vessel or burning the sludge in the ship’s incinerator. Federal law also requires ships to accurately record each disposal of oily water or sludge in an oil record book and to have the record book available for the U.S. Coast Guard when the vessel is within the waters of the United States. The M/V Sestrea called on the Port in Corpus Christi on Jan. 3, 2015.
According to court documents, the chief engineer knowingly failed to make the required entries into the oil record book including the fact that oily waste had been discharged directly into the sea. The chief engineer also made false entries in the oil record book to conceal the fact that the pollution control equipment had not been used. The crewmembers then attempted to conceal the discharge on Dec. 18, 2014, during a Coast Guard boarding at the port in Corpus Christi by providing the falsified oil record book to the boarding crew.
The investigation was conducted by the Coast Guard - Corpus Christi Sector and the Coast Guard Investigative Service in Corpus Christi. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller is prosecuting the case.