Guilty Plea, Concealing Vessel Pollution

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Panagiotis Stamatakis, the chief engineer on the Cyprus-flagged M/V Myron N, and the second engineer, Dimitrios Papadakis, both citizens of Greece, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., to using falsified records that concealed improper discharges of untreated bilge waste from the cargo ship, the Justice Department announced.

District Court Judge Peter G. Sheridan for the District of New Jersey scheduled sentencing for Sept. 8, 2009. Stamatakis and Papadakis each faces up to six years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The government's investigation began in September 2008, when inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the M/V Myron N, following the ship's arrival in Gravesend Anchorage, N.Y. and subsequently in the Port of Newark, N.J. The M/V Myron N is a 38,337 gross ton dry bulk carrier vessel operated and managed by Dalnave Navigation Inc., which is incorporated in the Republic of Liberia. The inspections uncovered evidence that crewmembers had improperly handled and disposed of the ship's untreated bilge waste, using a pipe to bypass its pollution control system. To conceal these activities, Stamatakis and Papadakis knowingly failed to record those discharges in the ship's official oil record book.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/V Myron N generate large amounts of waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste containing more than 15 parts per million of oil and without treatment by an oily water separator -- a required pollution prevention device. Law also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

Stamatakis served as the chief engineer aboard the M/V Myron N between November 2007 and September 2008 and was responsible for all engine room operations. Papadakis served as an engineer on the M/V Myron N from November 2007 until September 2008. Between November 2007 and September 2008, under the supervision of Stamatakis, Papadakis ordered engine room crew members to discharge untreated bilge fluids from the ship's bilge holding tank directly into the ocean. When the M/V Myron N entered the Gravesend Bay Anchorage on Sept. 8, 2008, and subsequently the Port of Newark, the ship's log, which Stamatakis was responsible for maintaining, failed to disclose the overboard discharge of oil-contaminated bilge water.

"Lying to the Coast Guard, obstructing a federal investigation and bypassing mandatory pollution controls is unacceptable," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "As long as individuals and companies continue to bypass this nation's environmental laws, the Justice Department will continue to bring charges and seek justice for those involved."

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O'Leary of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Mooradian of the U.S. Coast Guard First District Legal Office, and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section.

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