OMI Pleads Guilty to Ocean Pollution

OMI has pleaded guilty to preparing false documents in a cover-up of illegal dumping of thousands of gallons of waste oil and sludge at sea. The company has also agreed to pay a $4.2 million fine and was sentenced to three years probation. A ship captain and chief engineer previously pled guilty in connection with the case.

The ?Guadalupe,? a tanker owned and operated by the OMI Corporation, is the ship involved with the at-sea pollution. The vessel is equipped with a waste processing system for waste oil and sludge. The waste and sludge is supposed to be burned in an on-board incinerator,off-loaded to shore, or barged to disposal facilities.

The tanker was also equipped with an ?oil water separator? system designed to process oily water that collects in the bilges. The clean water is discharged at sea, and the oily bilge water is processed by the system. Under U.S. law, ships entering U.S. waters are required to maintain an "Oil Record Book" relating to the handling of oil produced in the engine room.

During the period between May and September, 2001, a chief engineer authorized the crew to bypass the incinerator and oil-water separator and to discharge the waste directly into the ocean. To conceal these illegal discharges at sea, the Oil Record Books were falsified with fraudulent entries.

"The federal government will simply not tolerate this kind of flagrant disregard for environmental law," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "Our oceans are not dumping grounds. Perhaps this company felt that it would escape our notice while out to sea. Clearly, they were sorely mistaken."

On September 10, 2001, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency boarded the ?Guadalupe? in the Port of Carteret to conduct an inspection, and were presented with the false Oil Record Book, OMI admitted. In addition, once he learned that discharges had taken place, the Captain of the ship also participated in efforts to cover up the illegal discharges.