Shipping companies to pay $1.8 million in Delaware Valley oil pollution case

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Two shipping companies incorporated in Liberia pleaded guilty in federal court in Wilmington to failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition and for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships by presenting false documents to the Coast Guard.

The agreement includes a $1.8 million dollar criminal penalty.

Defendants Nederland Shipping Company and Chartworld Shipping Company are the owner and operator of the 13,049 gross ton, ocean-going, refrigerated cargo/container vessel the M/V Nederland Reefer.

Large ships like the M/V Nederland Reefergenerate oil-contaminated bilge waste when water mixes in the bottom of the ship with oil that has leaked from the ship’s engines and other areas.

This waste must be processed to separate the water from the oil and other wastes by using pollution prevention equipment, including an Oily Water Separator (OWS), before being discharged into the sea. Regulations require that the disposal of the ship’s bilge waste be recorded in the ship’s Oil Record Book (ORB).

The investigation began on Feb. 2 when the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment in Lewes, conducted a Port State Control Examination of the Nederland Reefer.

The Coast Guard determined that the vessel’s chief engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been repeatedly tricking the oil content monitoring device on the vessel’s OWS with freshwater thereby discharging untreated oily bilge water overboard at sea. Mazarakis then falsified the vessel’s record to conceal the discharges from the Coast Guard.

On Oct. 2, 2019, Mazarakis pled guilty to a violation of the APPS for his falsification of the ORB. As part of his guilty plea, Mazarakis also admitted that he took various actions to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation, including the destruction of evidence and witness tampering.

The Coast Guard’s investigation also determined that on Dec. 30, 2018, seawater began entering the vessel below the waterline through a hole in the vessel’s Bilge Holding Tank. The compromise of the hull’s integrity and the temporary repairs constituted a hazardous condition that defendants failed to report to the Coast Guard.

Under the plea agreement, companies will be placed on a four-year term of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan to ensure, among other things, that ships operated by Chartworld entering the United States fully comply with all applicable national and international marine environmental protection laws. The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor.

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