Singapore-based Thome Ship Management, the manager of the tanker ETC Mena, said in a statement Thursday that the vessel's chief engineer is wholly to blame for MARPOL violations that cost Thome and the Egyptian Tanker Co. $1.9 million in fines.
"The government’s investigation did not reveal any evidence that Thome’s shore personnel, the owner’s shore personnel or the vessel’s captain had any involvement with or knowledge of the improper conduct," Thome wrote, adding that the engineer is no longer with the company.
Thome and ETC pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and obstruction of justice regarding overboard bilge water and garbage discharges from the ETC Mena last March.
“This case involved egregious violations of U.S. and international laws that are key to protecting the oceans from pollution, and deliberate efforts to mislead U.S. Coast Guard officials about these criminal acts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Justice Department frequently prosecute MARPOL waste discharge / oil record book violations, often after a tip-off from someone on board. In this instance, the Coast Guard found a pump in the ship’s bilge tank that looked similar to one that a whistleblower identified as used for pumping oily waste overboard. The whistleblower also had photos and videos that allegedly showed crewmembers putting waste over the side.
“Environmental crimes put the marine environment and our natural resources at risk,” said Rear Admiral Dave Callahan, Commander, Eighth Coast Guard District. “This case serves as another example that the United States will not tolerate these actions and violators will be held accountable.
In their plea, ETC and Thome admitted that the Mena's crew bypassed the ship's oily water separator and discharged bilge water directly into the ocean, without recording the discharge in the oil record book. In addition, they pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for submitting the falsified oil record book to the Coast Guard during an inspection.