Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shipping Company Admits to Dumping Oily Bilge

By Mark Edward Nero

A shipping company and one of its engineers have agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges involving wastewater dumping in US waters off Alaska, federal prosecutors said Feb. 12.

German shipping company AML Ship Management GMBH and chief engineer Nicholas Sassin admitted that AML-operated cargo ship City of Tokyo, which was carrying vehicles from South Korea to the US West Coast – pumped 4,500 gallons of oily bilge water overboard while sailing 165 miles south of the Aleutian Islands, according to plea agreements filed in federal courts in Anchorage and Portland.

The ship is a 603 feet long, Liberian-flagged vehicle carrier vessel. The dumping took place on or about Aug. 29, 2014, according to court documents.

According to prosecutors, the oily bilge water bypassed the ship’s legally mandated oil-water separator by being sent directly overboard through a makeshift hose-and-pump system.

AML and Sassin have each agreed to plead guilty to one count of violating the Clean Water Act and another count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The Clean Water Act charges, filed in Anchorage, concern the actual dumping; the APPS charges, filed in Portland, concern falsified wastewater records that court documents say were turned over to authorities when the City of Tokyo arrived in Portland, the ship’s delivery destination.

AML has agreed to pay $800,000 in fines and community service payments, to undergo an environmental compliance plan to improve operations and to serve three years of criminal probation, according to the plea agreement.

Sassin’s plea agreement does not specify a penalty deal between the parties, but federal prosecutors have said they’ll recommend a six-month prison term.

The maximum possible penalty for each of the violations is a $500,000 fine for the company and a $250,000 fine and a three-year prison term for Sassin, according to Assistant US Attorney Kevin Feldis, who said that it was crew members who alerted authorities to the illegal dumping.

“In this case, we had people who followed the law and did what was right,” he said.