The Greek owner and operator of a Panama-flagged oil products tanker, Ocean Princess, along with the vessel’s senior officers, have been convicted of air pollution crimes in the United States for using bunker fuel that exceeded the maximum allowable sulfur limit in the U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area (ECA). And moreover attempted to deceive U.S. Coast Guard inspectors about the source of the fuel being used aboard the ship.
Gretchen Shappert, U.S. attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands, announced that the owner of the ship, Lily Shipping Ltd., and its operator, Ionian Shipping & Trading Corp., were each fined $1.5 million. The tanker’s Master, Stamatios Alekidis, along with Chief Officer, Rey Espulgar, and Chief Engineer, Athanasios Pittas have also been convicted for their roles in the crimes.
The defendant’s conduct included using fuel that exceeded the maximum allowable sulfur concentration in the ECA. When vessels are operating within the U.S. Caribbean ECA, they must not use fuel that exceeds 0.1% sulfur by weight in order to help protect air quality.
U.S. Coast Guard inspectors boarded the tanker Ocean Princess on July 10, 2018, to conduct an inspection. During the inspection, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered that the vessel was using fuel with excessive sulfur content. Chief Officer instructed some of the lower-ranking crew members to lie to the U.S. Coast Guard about where the fuel came from.
In addition to the criminal fine, Ionian Shipping and Lily Shipping will each be placed on 4 years probation and ordered to implement an environmental compliance plan.
The officers were sentenced to 3 years probation during which they cannot return to the United States on a ship. Chief Officer was also fined $3,000.