U.S. DOJ: Guilty Plea in Oil Pollution Case

Monday, February 20, 2012

U.S. Shipping Company Convicted For Oil Pollution On High Seas.

Horizon Lines, LLC was sentenced Tuesday in front of the Honorable Richard Seeborg after pleading guilty to felony charges concerning violations of international and national oil pollution laws that occurred on a large container ship called the S/S Horizon Enterprise, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. As part of a plea agreement, the company was ordered to pay $1,500,000, with $500,000 of the monies going to environmental projects in the San Francisco Bay area.


Horizon Lines pled guilty to two counts of making false statements based on their knowing failure to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book in which all transfers and discharges of oil and oily waste are required to be recorded. “Horizon’s intentional tampering with its pollution control equipment showed a blatant disregard for the environment,” U.S. Attorney Haag said. “This case demonstrates our commitment to enforcing U.S. and international oil pollution laws to protect our natural resources.”


According to the plea agreement, engineers aboard the S/S Horizon Enterprise intentionally tricked pollution control equipment that would otherwise ensure oily waste does not go overboard. This created the possibility that oily waste could be released into the ocean. To disguise this conduct from the U.S. Coast Guard, who is charged with inspecting ships to ensure compliance with U.S. and international oil pollution laws, engineers made false entries in the ship’s Oil Record Book which gave the false impression that the ship’s pollution control equipment had been operated properly when they knew it had not. Horizon Lines admitted that similar conduct had occurred on board this ship going back several years.


In addition to paying the $1 million fine and $500,000 for environmental projects in the Bay Area, the company must also implement a comprehensive, environmental compliance plan to minimize the chance that such wrongful conduct could again occur on the S/S Horizon Lines or any other vessel in the company’s fleet.


“We are pleased this case has been resolved, but even more satisfied to hear the company is taking steps to prevent any further incidents of pollution,” said Capt. Cynthia Stowe, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of San Francisco. “U.S. Coast Guard inspectors and investigators are hard at work each and every day inspecting ships for compliance with environmental protection laws and regulations. When violations are found, we will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure violators are brought to justice and steps are taken to protect and restore the maritime ecosystems and natural resources important to the environmental and economic health of our nation and coastal communities.”


The case was prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigative Division and United States Coast Guard Investigative Services.

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