A Greek shipping company must pay the federal government $300,000 after admitting that one of its vessels discharged waste oil into the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. announced Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
“The oceans must be protected from shipping companies that look to cut corners by dumping waste improperly,” said Ivan Vikin, special agent-in-charge of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana.
Half of the $300,000 fine will be paid to a crew member and citizen of the Philippines, Joel Basinang, at the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones.
Jones stated in court records that Basinang, who worked as an oiler in the ship’s engine room, provided evidence of the illegal discharges to the U.S. Coast Guard after the Greek-operated vessel was moored in the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish.
She said Basinang’s service as a whistleblower could make it difficult for him to find work aboard oceangoing ships.
Jones told U.S. District Judge James J. Brady that the ship’s chief engineer admitted suggesting to crew members that Basinang should be harmed for cooperating with the Coast Guard.
She said the chief engineer than added that he was not serious about the threat.
Jones told Brady: “It is time that he (Basinang) be treated as the hero he truly is.”
Attorneys for Cleopatra Shipping Agency Ltd., operator of the Liberia-registered vessel M/V Stellar Wind, admitted in a signed statement that the ship’s crew bypassed an oil-and-water separator before pumping contaminated water from its bottom. That separator would have diverted waste oil to a sludge tank for eventual incineration. Instead, a hose was used to dump the oil into the ocean during a 16-day voyage in August 2011 from Spain to the United States.
Through its attorneys, the Greek shipping agency entered a plea of guilty to a single charge of failing to maintain an accurate oil record book and agreed to pay the $300,000 fine imposed by Brady.
The judge then awarded $150,000 of that money to Basinang.
No member of the crew and none of the shipping agency’s officials were charged with any criminal offense.
Cleopatra Shipping now is a convicted felon, serving a three-year term of probation imposed by the judge.