Federal prosecutors said a whistleblower slipped a thumb drive containing videos showing a ship illegally dumping oil waste to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors, leading to a criminal conviction and a civil fine of $2 million for a Greek shipping company.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice announcement, on Dec. 7, 2017, the Coast Guard boarded the Nave Cielo, a 750-foot-long oil tanker owned by Navimax of Piraeus, Greece. Prior to a formal inspection of the vessel near Delaware City, Delaware, a crewmember whistleblower gave the Coast Guard officers the thumb drive, which contained two videos depicting a high-volume discharge of dark-brown and black oil waste from a pipe positioned 15 feet above water level.
An investigation of the whistleblower videos found that the illegal 10-minute-long discharge occurred on Nov. 2, 2017, in international waters while the ship was headed to Belgium from New Orleans. During a follow-up inspection, crewmembers submitted the ship’s Oil Record Book to the Coast Guard officers, but there was no record of the discharge in the book.
The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships is a codification of international treaties known as the “MARPOL Protocol.” To ensure that oil waste is properly stored and processed at sea, all ocean-going ships entering U.S. ports must maintain an Oil Record Book in which all transfers and discharges of oil waste are fully and accurately recorded. The U.S. can prosecute violations of the Pollution Act regardless of the ship’s location in international waters.
In addition to the $2 million fine, the U.S. placed Navimax on probation for four years, effective immediately. During the probationary period, the U.S. Coast Guard will closely monitor the company’s fleet of ships for compliance with U.S. and international laws.
“The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships helps protect the precious ocean and marine resources of the United States from harmful pollution, and those who knowingly violate this law will be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with the Coast Guard and our other law enforcement partners to ensure that individuals and corporations alike comply with the nation’s environmental laws.”