U.S. DOJ: Shipping Company Fined for Pollution Cover-Up

Friday, September 09, 2011

German Shipping Company Sentenced in Puerto Rico to Pay $800,000 Penalty for Intentional Cover-Up of Oil Pollution.

WASHINGTON – Uniteam Marine Shipping GmbH, a German corporation, was sentenced in federal court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard, announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno and U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.

The company was sentenced to pay an $800,000 criminal penalty, to include a $200,000 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund a community service project in the District of Puerto Rico.  In addition, the company was placed on three years of supervised probation and will have to implement a comprehensive advanced training and verification program to continuously monitor vessel operations and train crewmembers to prevent pollution from any ship it operates.

“The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute shipping companies who break the laws that protect our oceans,” said Assistant Attorney General Moreno. “The penalty imposed by this sentence not only holds Uniteam Marine fully accountable for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, but also will fund projects that rehabilitate damaged marine ecosystems in Puerto Rico.”

Uniteam Marine Shipping GmbH operated a 16,800 ton, 603 foot ocean going container ship named the M/V CCNI Vado Ligure that was engaged in global commercial trade.  On May 10, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard in San Juan,  conducted an inspection of the vessel and discovered an excessive amount of oil in the discharge lines of the vessel’s oil water separator, a pollution prevention device designed to prevent the discharge of oily waste.  When the device is operated properly, there should be no oil in the discharge lines. Subsequent investigation revealed that from Jan. 8, 2010, until May 10, 2010, the crew on the vessel manipulated the oil water separator so that is failed to function properly and allowed the illegal discharge of  oily bilge wastes directly into the ocean.

All discharges of oil or oily bilge waste from a vessel are required to be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book.  However, none of the illegal discharges were recorded in the oil record book for the M/V CCNI Vado Ligure.

“This sentence should serve as an eye opener to vessel owners and operators that choose to violate federal and international environmental laws that destroy our marine environment," said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, Sector San Juan Commander.  "The U.S. Coast Guard is committed to protecting the maritime environment and works closely with our dedicated interagency partners and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring criminal environmental offenders to justice.  This outcome would not have been possible without the outstanding investigative efforts and professionalism put forth by Sector San Juan pollution investigators and the Coast Guard Investigative Service who worked diligently with Department of Justice prosecutors to properly resolve this case.”

“Because we live on an island, the sea is without a doubt one of our most precious resources.  This case should send a strong message that the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office will prosecute any entity which pollutes our environment to the fullest extent allowed by the law,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will receive $200,000 to fund projects aimed at the restoration of marine and aquatic resources in the District of Puerto Rico, including projects intended to protect and rehabilitate marine mammals and their habitat, including manatees.

During the period of probation, Uniteam will be required to implement an advanced training and verification program which will ensure that any ship operated by Uniteam complies with all maritime environmental requirements established under applicable international, flag state, and port state laws.  The program ensures that Uniteam’s employees and the crew of any vessel operated by Uniteam are properly trained in preventing maritime pollution. An independent monitor will report to the court about Uniteam’s compliance with its obligations during the period of probation.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.  The case was prosecuted by Marshal Morgan in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico and by Ken Nelson in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

 

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