Ship operator’s pollution indictment - Soundings Online

Ship operator’s pollution indictment

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The Hong Kong-based operator and two crewmembers of a 463-foot bulk container ship have been indicted on charges of illegally dumping oil into the Atlantic and attempting to cover up the crime.

The Hong Kong-based operator and two crewmembers of a 463-foot bulk container ship have been indicted on charges of illegally dumping oil into the Atlantic and attempting to cover up the crime.

A six-count indictment was filed in May against Fleet Management Ltd. of Hong Kong, and the captain and chief engineer of the Valparaiso Star, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office. The 17-page indictment alleges that Fleet Management, as well as Capt. Parag Raj Grewal, 34, of India, and chief engineer Yevgen Dyachenko, 53, of the Ukraine, attempted to cover up discharges of oil-contaminated sludge and bilge waste between November 2006 and January 2007 by not recording them in the vessel’s oil record log. Charges include conspiracy, failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, making false statements and obstructing agency proceedings.

A Sept. 24 hearing is set for the defendants. If convicted, Fleet Management could face fines of up to $2.5 million. Grewal and Dyachenko each face maximum sentences of 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

“The indictment also alleges that the ship’s management company and captain obstructed the investigation by attempting to influence witness testimony,” says U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, of Pennsylvania’s eastern district, in the statement.

The crew of the Valparaiso Star allegedly supplied Coast Guard officials with a false oil record log during an inspection of the Liberian-flagged vessel last January in Philadelphia, the statement says. Authorities apparently became suspicious when the vessel’s crew didn’t pay to offload oil waste after its passage from Chile.

Following an investigation, agency officials determined that Dyachenko ordered crewmembers to use a flexible hose to bypass the ship’s pollution control equipment and dispose untreated oil waste and sludge overboard, the statement says. Crewmembers also were ordered to manipulate the emergency dewatering system’s pumps and valves so that water contaminated with oil from the ship’s holding tanks would be pumped into the ocean.

The indictment also charges that Grewal and Dyachenko directed Fleet Management to fire a crewmember who refused to cooperate with the illegal dumping, and also attempted to coerce him into lying to the Coast Guard about it, the statement says. International and U.S. law prohibits the discharge of untreated oil-contaminated bilge waste.