Greek Companies Fined in Virgin Islands Air Emissions Case
The U.S. Department of Justice District of the Virgin Islands has fined two Greek Shipping companies for various air pollution offenses committed in the U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area, with fines totaling over $3 million for those involved.
Ionian Shipping & Trading Corp., Lily Shipping Ltd, Stamatios Alekidis, Athanasios Pittas and Rey Espulgar have been convicted and sentenced for various pollution, record-keeping and obstruction of justice offenses on the tanker Ocean Princess. The defendants’ conduct included using fuel that exceeded the maximum allowable sulfur concentration and efforts to deceive U.S. Coast Guard inspectors about the source of the fuel being used.
The Ocean Princess was owned by Lily Shipping Ltd and operated by Ionian Shipping & Trading Corp., both Greece-domiciled companies. The vessel was engaged in transporting petroleum products throughout the Caribbean including from Limetree Terminals, St. Croix. The commercial manager of the vessel would authorize the Master of the vessel, Stamatios Alekidis, to transfer petroleum cargo from the cargo tanks into the vessel’s bunker tanks.
Between January 3, 2017, and July 10, 2018, the Ocean Princess entered into, and operated within, the U.S. Caribbean ECA using fuel that contained excessive sulfur on 26 separate occasions. Once notification was received from Alekidis, Chief Officer Espulgar coordinated with Chief Engineer Pittas to make the transfers from the cargo tanks to the bunker tanks. Espulgar then falsified the Oil Record Book, Part II, by failing to record that cargo had been transferred to the bunker tanks. Pittas also falsified the Oil Record Book, Part I, by falsely recording that the fuel in the bunker tank originated from a shore-side company in St. Martin. Additionally, Pittas created fictitious Bunker Delivery Notes. Between March 2, 2016, and February 6, 2018, 19 separate fictitious Bunker Delivery Notes were created.
U.S. Coast Guard inspectors boarded the Ocean Princess on July 10, 2018, to conduct an inspection. During the inspection, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered that the vessel was using fuel with an excessive sulfur content. Espulgar instructed some of the lower-ranking crewmembers to lie to the U.S. Coast Guard inspectors about where the fuel came from and to say the ship took on fuel in St. Martin.
Ionian Shipping & Trading Corp. and Lily Shipping Ltd will each pay $1.5 million, be placed on four years of probation, and implement an Environmental Compliance Plan. Alekidis, Pittas and Espulgar were sentenced to three years of probation and ordered not to return to the United States on a ship during that time. Espulgar was also fined $3,000.