Tanker Master Convicted of Smuggling During Salvage Ops
The master of the small product tanker Lassea has been given a two-year suspended prison sentence for his involvement in smuggling fuel during a salvage operation.
The Lassea was contracted to take on fuel oil pumped up from the sunken Greek tanker Agia Zoni II, which went down off Piraeus on September 10 with about 2,500 tonnes of petroleum in her tanks. Prosecutors said that marine officials found significant quantities of an undocumented “petroleum mixture” in the Lassea's ballast tanks when she arrived at a refinery to deliver the oil recovered from the Zoni. The Lassea also had expired government certificates of seaworthiness, like the Zoni, which was operating on an extension when she went down.
The Security Office of the Central Port Authority of Piraeus said in a statement that it arrested the Lassea, her captain and chief engineer on smuggling charges. In their defense, the men claimed that the oil mixture had leaked into their ballast tanks during the salvage operations. The master was convicted and given a suspended sentence, and the engineer was found not guilty.
The process of removing the oil from the Agia Zoni's tanks was completed last weekend. Her tanks will be cleaned, and Minister of Shipping Panayiotis Kourouplis told media that she will be raised and removed. "I want to tell you that it is our decision . . . to ask the shipowning company and the insurance company to lift the ship," he said.