Chief engineer sentenced for concealing vessel pollution

May 6, 2009
Carmelo Oria, the chief engineer on the Cyprus-flagged M/T Nautilus, was sentenced for maintaining inaccurate records that concealed a discharge of oil-contaminated water from the bilges of the vessel...

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6, 2009 -- Carmelo Oria, a Spanish citizen who was the chief engineer on the Cyprus-flagged M/T Nautilus, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts for maintaining inaccurate records that concealed a discharge of oil-contaminated water from the bilges of the M/T Nautilus, the Justice Department announced. Oria was sentenced to one month in prison, to be followed by supervised release for a term of two years and a $3,000 fine.

Oria pleaded guilty on March 9, 2009, to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships based on his role in discharging oil-contaminated bilge water directly into the ocean from the M/T Nautilus and then failing to record the discharge in the ship's records.

The government's investigation began in March 2008, when inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the M/T Nautilus, following the ship's arrival in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and subsequently in the Port of Boston. The M/T Nautilus is a 26,794 gross ton chemical tanker owned by Cyprus-based Iceport Shipping Company Ltd., and operated by Spanish-based Consultores de Navegacion S.A.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/T Nautilus 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 that is regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Oria served as the Chief Engineer aboard the M/T Nautilus between January and March 2008 and was responsible for all engine room operations. During that time, Oria ordered engine room crew members to discharge oil-contaminated bilge water from the ship's bilges directly into the ocean. When the M/T Nautilus entered the Port of Boston on March 22, 2008, the ship's log, which Oria was responsible for maintaining, failed to disclose the overboard discharge of oil-contaminated bilge water.

"This sentence sends a loud and clear message to crewmembers and companies alike that dumping pollution directly overboard and attempting to conceal it will lead to penalties," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Maritime companies and their employees must understand that violations of our Nation's laws are serious and the Justice Department stands ready to prosecute those who choose to ignore them."

"Our hope is that this case will send a strong message to those in the maritime community who might try to circumvent our nation's anti-pollution laws. It is necessary to ensure that the companies realize that violating our environmental laws will be taken seriously, and will ultimately cost them more than legally disposing of the waste," said Michael K. Loucks, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

"The Coast Guard is committed to working with the maritime industry and federal, state and local law enforcement partners to protect the U.S. maritime environment from individuals who pollute our waters," said Rear Admiral Dale G. Gabel, Commander of the First Coast Guard District in Boston, Mass. "When these violations occur, the Coast Guard will work with our partners to ensure violators are held accountable under the law."

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Investigative Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda M. Ricci of Loucks' Economic Crimes Unit, Trial Attorney Todd Mikolop of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard First District Legal Office.