The German shipping companies Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG and Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG MS “Extum,” who owned and operated the cargo ship M/V BBC Magellan, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the US Justice Department said.
The companies also pleaded guilty of tampering with witnesses by persuading them to provide false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard concerning a bypass hose on the vessel that was being used to discharge oil into the sea.
The two companies were sentenced to pay a total of USD 1.25 million in fines and a USD 250,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects that enhance coastal habitats of the Gulf of Mexico and bolster priority fish and wildlife populations.
In addition, the ship M/V BBC Magellan is banned from doing business in the United States for the next five years.
In March 2015, during an inspection at the Port of Pensacola, the USCG discovered an improperly attached rubber hose. Officials later determined that, between January and March 2015, the crew of the M/V BBC Magellan, acting on behalf of the vessel’s owner, had installed and illegally used the rubber hose to remove oily wastes from the vessel’s holding tanks and discharged them directly into the ocean.
The crew also failed to make the required entries in the vessel’s oil record book. When questioned about the hose’s purpose and how oily wastes were discharged from the ship, the chief engineer instructed other crew members to lie to the Coast Guard, the Justice Department.
“This egregious behavior by shipping companies, which included intentional deception and witness tampering, will not be tolerated. We will continue to prosecute companies and their officers for these crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden.
“The defendants in this case falsified entries in their vessel’s log books to hide the true nature of its open water discharges. Today’s court action should signal to would-be violators that the American people will not allow the flagrant violation of U.S. laws,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Andy Castro of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program in Florida.