On November 2, 2012, two German shipping companies pled guilty to the concealment of illegal dumping of oil at sea. According to the plea agreement, the chief engineer and other crew members on board the vessel repeatedly discharged oily bilge waste water from the vessel into the ocean by using a hose that bypassed the vessel’s Oil Water Separator; the chief engineer then falsified the vessel’s oil record book to conceal the dumping from Coast Guard inspectors when the vessel entered the United States ports in Alaska on January 24, 2012, and then again in Houston on March 4, 2012.
According to information from court records, the Coast Guard boarded the commercial cargo vessel M/V Susan K in Houston on April 6, 2012, after receiving a tip from a lower level crew member about the illegal dumping. The Coast Guard then found the hose used to dump the oily waste overboard. According to court records, during the inspection the chief engineer lied to the Coast Guard about the hose and the oil dumping and instructed a crew member to lie to the Coast Guard about the use of the hose.
On September 10, 2012, the chief engineer pleaded guilty to one criminal charge in Texas and was fined $1,000 and sentenced to one year probation.
Nimmrich & Prahm Bereederung and Nimmrich & Prahm Reedrei, the operator and owner of the M/V Susan K, pleaded to two obstruction of justice charges and one violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for the violations in the District of Alaska and Southern District of Texas (the obstruction of justice charge in Alaska was procedurally transferred to Houston). The companies were fined $1,200,000.00, $200,000.00 of which will go to the National Marine Sanctuaries Fund as a community service payment. Additionally, as a condition of probation, all vessels owned or operated by the companies will be prohibited from entering United States ports or waters for five years.
The three whistle blowers on the vessel who assisted in the criminal investigation were each awarded $67,000.00 by the court.
My friend, Brian McCarthy with Michael Chalos’ firm handled the defense. David Kehoe, with the Environmental Crimes Section of the USDOJ, Gary Cobe, AUSA for the Southern District of Texas, and
Kevin Feldis, AUSA for the District of Alaska, prosecuted the case.
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