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Dump waste, pay big-time

The U.S. Department of Justice released information on two cases of commercial ships illegally discharging waste July 9, according to recent press releases.

The first involved B.Navi Ship Management Services, an Italian shipping company that was sentenced to pay $1.5 million and serve three years probation for illegally dumping oily sludge, bilge wastes and oil-contaminated ballast water from the M/V Windsor Castle, a 27,000 gross-ton bulk carrier vessel. B.Navi pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to a two-count charge of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and making materially false statements to the Coast Guard about how the oil on the ship was processed, according to the report.

The Coast Guard first boarded WindsorCastle Aug. 17, 2007, when it arrived in Houston. They learned the vessel’s chief engineer had ordered crewmembers to dump oil sludge and bilge waste into the ocean and had falsified the ships’ oil record book to conceal these discharges. The $1.5 million includes the criminal fine as well as a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organization. During probation, the company must follow a strict environmental-compliance program that includes a court-appointed monitor and auditing of the vessels.

In addition, the owner, operator and chief engineer of Rio Gold, a 23,000-ton Greek oceangoing cargo ship, were indicted on environmental offenses, including violation of APPS, false statements to the Coast Guard, and falsification of records, according to the report.

The charges stem from the discharge of oil and garbage into the ocean several times prior to the vessel’s call May 26 on the port of Oakland, Calif. On that day, four crewmembers came to the Coast Guard voluntarily with concerns about illegal activity. Upon inspection, authorities found a pipe being used to bypass the anti-pollution equipment on the Rio Gold, which is thought to have been used since the purchase of the ship in July 2007.

Rio Gold’s chief engineer faces a maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy offense and two counts of false statements as well as a maximum fine of $250,000. For each of the two charges of violating the APPS and falsification of records, he faces a minimum 20 years in prison, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis