Shipping companies to pay $1.8 million fine in Delaware Valley oil pollution case

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The U.S. Coast Guard earlier this year discovered that the Nederland Reefer illegally dumped oily bilge water into the sea. [Photo Credit: Jerry Spillett]
The U.S. Coast Guard earlier this year discovered that the Nederland Reefer illegally dumped oily bilge water into the sea. [Photo Credit: Jerry Spillett]

Two shipping companies incorporated in Liberia pleaded guilty in federal court in Wilmington presenting falsified documents to the U.S. Coast Guard to hide oil pollution caused by one of their cargo ships.

A U.S. Department of Justice statement says Nederland Shipping Company and Chartworld Shipping Company must pay a $1.8 million criminal fine and will be subject to four-year probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan for Chartworld’s ships. The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor, the Justice Department said.

Defendants Nederland Shipping Company and Chartworld Shipping Company are the owner and operator of the 13,049 gross ton, ocean-going, refrigerated cargo/container vessel the M/V Nederland Reefer.

Large ships like the M/V Nederland Reefergenerate oil-contaminated bilge waste when water mixes in the bottom of the ship with oil that has leaked from the ship’s engines and other areas.

This waste must be processed to separate the water from the oil and other wastes by using pollution prevention equipment, including an Oily Water Separator (OWS), before being discharged into the sea. Regulations require that the disposal of the ship’s bilge waste be recorded in the ship’s Oil Record Book (ORB).

The investigation began on Feb. 2. The Coast Guard determined that the vessel’s chief engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been repeatedly tricking the oil content monitoring device on the vessel’s OWS with freshwater thereby discharging untreated oily bilge water overboard at sea. Mazarakis then falsified the vessel’s record to conceal the discharges from the Coast Guard.

On Oct. 2, 2019, Mazarakis pled guilty to a violation of the APPS for his falsification of the ORB. As part of his guilty plea, Mazarakis also admitted that he took various actions to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation, including the destruction of evidence and witness tampering.