OMI Ordered to Pay $4.2M

Monday, August 09, 2004
Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Christopher J. Christie, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, announced that a Connecticut-based shipping company that transports petroleum products in the United States and abroad was sentenced to pay $4.2 million for illegally concealing the dumping of thousands of gallons of waste oil and sludge at sea.

U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden ordered OMI Corporation, to pay a $4.2 million fine and serve three years of probation. Judge Hayden also awarded $2.1 million of the fine to a former OMI crew member who reported the crimes to the government. The reward, issued under a bounty provision in the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, is the largest ever, which allows the Court to award up to ½ of the criminal fine to those providing information leading to conviction.

In pleading guilty, OMI admitted that it had deliberately discharged waste oil, sludge and oily-water mixtures directly overboard from the oil tanker Guadalupe without the use of required pollution prevention equipment known as an Oil Water Separator. The Oil Water Separator is designed to separate out harmful quantities of oil so that they could be incinerated on the ship or properly disposed on shore. Instead, the company intentionally polluted by circumventing this key equipment with the use of a bypass hose.

The deliberate discharges were then concealed in a false and fictitious Oil Record Book, a required log in which all overboard discharges must be accurately recorded and which is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The government learned about OMI’s criminal conduct from an individual who once served as a member of the engine room department on the Guadalupe. In September, 2001, when the ship arrived in Carteret, New Jersey, the ship’s 2nd Engineer walked off the ship and directly to the local police department where he reported that he was being ordered to engage in criminal activity. At sentencing, prosecutors informed the Court that the crew member had risked his career with OMI and the industry in coming forward and qualified for an award under the statute.

“This case should send a message that polluting our environment and lying to the government will not be tolerated,” said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“This prosecution demonstrates the continuing commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute environmental crimes,” said Christopher J. Christie, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The ship’s Captain, Ashok Kumar, and Chief Engineer, Elangovan Mani, have also pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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