Tanker Owner and Operator Fined $2M For Oily Waste Dumping

PS Dream (USCG / DOJ)

Published May 22, 2024 6:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two foreign companies that own and operate a product tanker have been slapped with a $2 million fine after pleading guilty to deliberately dumping oily waste in ocean waters near New Orleans, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Dubai-based Prive Overseas Marine and Turkish company Prive Shipping, the owner and operator of product tanker PS Dream, pleaded guilty to knowingly violating MARPOL and obstruction of justice. The plea agreement means the two companies will pay a total fine of $2 million and serve four years of probation. Captain Abdurrahman Korkmaz, a Turkish national who was the ship’s master, is set to face separate charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice said that a crew member of the tanker acted as the whistleblower for the serious violation. On January 11, 2023, the crew member contacted the Coast Guard in New Orleans, which was the next port-of-call for the Dream. The seafarer shared a video showing oil being pumped overboard and trailing behind the tanker. (Whistleblowers are eligible for substantial rewards for MARPOL reports in the United States.)

Court documents suggest that the ship’s master ordered crew members to pump overboard from the residual oil tank, which contained oily waste. A portable pump was placed inside the tank and connected to a long flexible hose, which discharged directly into the ocean. The waste oil, including sludge, came from the engine room and had been put in the residual oil tank by a prior crew.

Senior managers at Prive Shipping were aware that the oil-contaminated waste remained in the tank and were informed by the ship’s master that it had been dumped overboard, according to the plea agreement. When the ship arrived in New Orleans two weeks later, the whistleblower and another crew member provided evidence to the Coast Guard that included video and photographic images of the oil being dumped.  

The companies, together with Captain Korkmaz, tried to conceal the crime by falsifying the Ship’s oil record book, which is a required log. The falsified logs, presented to the Coast Guard during its inspection, were intended to conceal the fact that the crew had dumped oil-contaminated waste overboard.

Owing to their actions, the companies were charged with four felonies of conspiracy, a MARPOL violation and two counts of obstruction of justice. The captain was charged with two counts, a violation of MARPOL and obstructing the Coast Guard’s inspection of the ship.

“Deliberate pollution from ships, intentional falsification of records and obstruction of justice are serious environmental crimes that will be vigorously prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

 The federal court overseeing the plea deal has the authority to award up to $500,000 to the whistleblowers who tipped off the Coast Guard and provided evidence for the case.