Two Greek shipping companies, Avin International Ltd and Nicos I.V. Special Maritime Enterprises, were sentenced on charges stemming from several illegal oil discharges from the oil tanker Nicos I.V.
Both the operator and the owner pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an agency proceeding, one count of failure to report discharge of oil under the Clean Water Act, and three counts of negligent discharge of oil under the Clean Water Act on November 26, 2018.
Under the plea agreement, the companies will pay a USD 4 million criminal fine and serve a four-year term of probation, during which vessels operated by the companies will be required to implement an environmental compliance plan, including inspections by an independent auditor.
The Master of the Nicos I.V., Rafail-Thomas Tsoumakos, and the vessel’s Chief Officer, Alexios Thomopoulos, both pleaded guilty to one count of making a material false statement and were sentenced to pay fines of USD 10,000 each on December 20, 2018.
Namely, at some point prior to July 6, 2017, the ballast system of the Greek-flagged tanker became contaminated with oil and that oil was discharged twice from the vessel into the Port of Houston on July 6 and July 7, 2017, during deballasting operations.
After leaving the Port of Houston, en route to Port Arthur, Texas, oil was observed in several of the ballast tanks. After arriving in Port Arthur, additional oil began bubbling up next to the vessel, which was then reported to the U.S. Coast Guard.