Company and Crew Convicted on MARPOL Charges

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Published Jun 21, 2016 9:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

The owner and operator of the bulker Gallia Graeca and two of her engineers were convicted Monday of 12 felony counts related to MARPOL oily waste violations, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.

The government alleged and the jury concurred that the Graeca's crew had bypassed the vessel's oil water separator and discharged some 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water over the side. Upon a Coast Guard port state control inspection, the crew attempted to conceal the act by making false statements and tampering with the vessel's oil record book. Inspectors asked the engineers to show them a test run of the separator during their visit aboard, and the engineers attempted to operate the equipment in a manner suggesting that it was functioning; in actuality it was inoperable. Coast Guard personnel found that the separator's filters were clogged, and logs showed it had no record of service for months prior to the inspection. A further search found oil residue in overboard discharge piping.

Prosecutors argued that the engineers made the effort in order to avoid the ship's detention in Seattle, which would have commercial implications for her operator. Further, the Coast Guard found that company executives had been in contact with the ship's engineers about how to present the oil record logbook for the port state control visit. 

The ship’s operator, Angelakos Hellas, the shipowner, Gallia Graeca Shipping, the chief engineer, Konstantinos Chrysovergis and the second engineer, Tryfon Angelou were found guilty of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, falsification of records and engaging in a scheme to defraud the government. The jury deliberated for three days following an eight-day jury trial. 

"The detection, investigation and prosecution of the illegal discharge of oil was truly a team effort," said Cmdr. Matt Edwards, chief of prevention at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. "While the vast majority of vessel owners run a safe and environmentally conscious operation, this case demonstrates our willingness to hold people and organizations accountable for willfully violating U.S. laws and regulations."

Sentencing is scheduled for this September. The falsification of records charge is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (the U.S. implementation of MARPOL) with up to six years; and scheming to defraud the United States with up to five years. Each count of conviction could also result in a $500,000 fine against each corporation and $250,000 against each crewmember.