$1.3M fine for vessel’s illegal dumping

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Investigators discovered a bypass pipe when an Athens-based cargo ship was boarded last year in Florida

Investigators discovered a bypass pipe when an Athens-based cargo ship was boarded last year in Florida

The Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd. based in Athens, Greece, was sentenced to pay $1.3 million Aug. 16, for one of their ships dumping bilge and wastewater into the ocean.

The 737-foot bulk cargo ship M/V North Princess arrived in Port Jacksonville, Fla. Nov. 20, 2006, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers were given a tip from the ship’s wiper and cook that there was illegal dumping taking place. Those agencies in turn alerted the Coast Guard sector in Jacksonville, Fla. When the ship made port, the Coast Guard boarded the vessel to investigate its compliance with national and international environmental laws.

“There was a bypass pipe that was located through a storeroom or closet type of area,” says Petty Officer Dale Walker. “The pipe led right to overboard discharge. They also falsified log books on what was discharged appropriately when.”

The federal government strictly prohibits oil being released without treatment by an oil/water separator, and requires all overboard discharges be recorded in a log book that can be reviewed at will by the Coast Guard.

“Between the rough log book we found aboard along with an old record book, we determined about 2,000 gallons of crude oil were missing,” says Lt. Edgardo Cruz. “They also threw some garbage overboard.”

After these discoveries were made, the Coast Guard handed the situation over to federal officials where the case was prosecuted by Counsel in the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Kassian pleaded guilty July 23, 2007, to maintaining a false record of the illegal dumping into the ocean, and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $1 million, serve a probation term of 30 months, and pay $300,000 to fund U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation community service projects, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The North Princess’ second assistant engineer Spyridon Markou was charged with obstruction of justice after pleading guilty to giving the Coast Guard false information during the inspection of the vessel, stating he knew nothing about the illegal bypass pipe that was discovered.

“Unfortunately, we see a lot of this in the maritime industry — many companies do it,” says Cruz. “It’s just a matter of getting evidence. I’ve been involved in foreign investigations before, and it all comes down to the evidence you collect and if you can get a statement from the crew.”

The ship’s wiper and cook were each awarded $230,000 and two third engineers who also contributed to the investigation were each awarded $20,000 under a federal statute that states half of the fine can be awarded to those who provide information leading to a conviction.