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Seattle court convicts shipping firms of dumping oily waste

23 Jun 2016 13:17 GMT

Ship owner, operator, and chief and second engineers are all found guilty.



The owners and operators of the 224-metre bulk carrier MV Gallia Graeca [pictured] and two engineers from the ship have been convicted by the U.S. District Court in Seattle of 12 felony counts relating to the discharge of oily waste at sea.

Panama-based Greek shipping operator Angelakos Hellas S.A., the Cypriot owner of the vessel, Gallia Graeca Shipping Ltd, along with chief and second engineers, Konstantinos Chrysovergis and Tryfon Angelou, were all found guilty following an eight-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour.

Originally indicted before a grand jury in March 2015 and charged with 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 charges related to incidents which occurred in October 2015. According to court documents and testimony at trial, during its voyage from China to Seattle, the 2001-built vessel's oil water separator was inoperable and on October 16, 26 and 27, 2015, the safeguards that prevent the discharge of oily water were bypassed and approximately 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water discharged overboard.

The defendants then concealed these incidents from the coast guard inspectors and falsified the ship's oil record book. According to the official oil record book presented to the coast guard, bilge water had not been discharged during the voyage to Seattle. However, when coast guard inspectors examined the oil water separator, they found its filters were clogged with oil and there was oil residue in the overboard discharge piping. Further investigation discovered evidence that oily water had been discharged into the sea three times during the voyage from China.

During the jury trial, which prosecutors called a voyage of deception and pollution, it was argued that the engineers tried to hide the pollution from the Coast Guard to avoid having the ship detained in Seattle, and shipping company executives had been in contact with the engineers about how they should present the log book for the Coast Guard inspection.

Commander Matt Edwards, of Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, said following the verdict: "While the vast majority of vessel owners run a safe and environmentally conscious operation, this case demonstrates our willingness to hold people and organisations accountable for wilfully violating U.S. laws and regulations."

Falsification of Records in a Federal Investigation is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, whilst Concealment of Material Information from the United States is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment.

Each count of conviction is also punishable by a $500,000 fine. The sentencing is scheduled for September 16, 2016.






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