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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Seattle Grand Jury Indicts Shipping Companies

By Mark Edward Nero

A grand jury in Seattle has indicted two shipping companies and two engineers for alleged crimes related to the illegal discharge of oily wastewater from a Cyprus-flagged cargo ship.

The vessel is a 15-year-old bulk carrier known as the M/V Gallia Graeca, according to US Attorney Annette L. Hayes, who revealed the indictment on March 10.

The ship’s operator, Angelakos S.A., its owner, Gallia Greaca Shipping, and two engineers are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on March 24. Angelakos is a Panama company, while Gallia Greaca Shipping is based in Cyprus.

According to the indictment, the M/V Gallia Graeca travelled from China to Seattle in October 2015, and during the voyage, a pollution-control device known as an oil water separator was inoperable, resulting in the accumulation of untreated oily water.

The defendants operated the equipment in a way that bypassed safeguards that prevent the discharge of oily water, resulting in the discharge of more than 5,000 gallons of contaminated water on Oct. 16, 26 and 27, 2015, the indictment claims.

The indictment also alleges that the defendants concealed the incidents from the US Coast Guard by making false statements to inspectors, and making false statements and omissions in the ship’s record book.

When Coast Guard inspectors asked the engineers to operate the oil water separator during the inspection, the engineers did so in such a way that the equipment appeared to be working properly even though it was not, according to the US Attorney.

The two engineers and the two companies operating the ship are charged with falsification of records, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, with concealment of material information, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, which is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment.

Each count of conviction is also punishable by a $500,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by the US Coast Guard and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The full indictment can be seen and downloaded at https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdwa/file/831881/download