Friday, June 24, 2016

Shippers, Engineers Convicted in Pollution Case

By Mark Edward Nero

Two companies that own and operate a Greek shipping vessel and two engineers from the ship were convicted June 20 in US District Court in Seattle of 12 felony counts related to their dumping of oily waste at sea.

Ship operator Angelakos Hellas S.A., ship owner Gallia Graeca Shipping, chief engineer Konstantinos Chrysovergis and second engineer Tryfon Angelou were found guilty of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the falsification of records in a federal investigation and engaging in a scheme to defraud the United States.

The jury deliberated for three days following an eight-day jury trial.

According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, a pollution-control device known as an oil water separator was inoperable on the cargo ship Gallia Graeca during its voyage from China to Seattle last October. On Oct. 16, 26 and 27, 2015, the defendants bypassed safeguards that prevent the discharge of oily water and discharged about 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water overboard, according to the US Coast Guard, and the defendants concealed the incidents by making false statements to inspectors to Coast Guard inspectors, and making false statements and omissions in the ship’s oil 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. However, when Coast Guard inspectors examined the oil water separator they found its filters were clogged with oil and found oil residue in the overboard discharge piping.

Records indicated the oil water separator had not been serviced for months.

According to the official oil record book presented to the Coast Guard, bilge water had not been discharged during the voyage to Seattle, but the Coast Guard investigation discovered evidence that oily water had been discharged into the sea three times during the voyage from China.

Prosecutors argued that the engineers tried to hide the pollution from the Coast Guard to keep the Gallia Graeca on schedule and avoid having the ship detained in Seattle, and that shipping company executives had been in contact with the engineers about how they should present the logbook for the Coast Guard inspection.

Falsification of records in a federal investigation is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships is punishable by up to six years imprisonment.

Scheming to defraud the United States is punishable by up to five years in prison, and each count of conviction is also punishable by a $500,000 fine against each corporation and $250,000 against each individual defendant.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.