Government reaches novel plea agreement in vessel pollution case

By: | at 08:00 PM | Liner Shipping  

Clipper Marine Services agrees to Pay $4.75mln fine, retrofits ships and implements remote-monitoring system

In a case involving illegal discharges of oily waste from an ocean-going vessel that entered Port Newark in June 2006, a federal judge in Newark accepted a plea agreement between the government and Clipper Marine Services A/S, a Danish company, US Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced last week.

In addition to making a total monetary payment of $4.75 million, the company has agreed to retrofit certain ships with state-of-the-art oily water separators and implement a pilot program involving a cutting-edge real-time remote monitoring system to track oil waste levels and the usage of oil waste processing equipment on board five of its ships.

Of the $4.75 million, $1.5 million is being directed to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to which the US Attorney’s Office has directed other such community service payments in environmental cases prosecuted in the District of New Jersey.

Clipper Marine Services was indicted along with two related companies on March 20, 2007, in connection with an attempt by crewmembers of the M/T Clipper Trojan to cover up illegal discharges of oily waste in international waters.

In a plea entered today in US District Court before US District Judge Peter G. Sheridan, Clipper Marine Services pleaded guilty and admitted that it conspired to defraud the US Coast Guard by maintaining a false Oil Record Book on board the M/T Clipper Trojan that concealed overboard discharges of oil sludge and oil-contaminated bilge water between February and June of 2006. Clipper Marine Services also acknowledged that it was responsible for the actions of the ship’s Chief Engineer, who maintained the false Oil Record Book and presented it to the US Coast Guard during a port state control inspection at Port Newark on June 15, 2006. The company also acknowledged that the discharges aboard the M/T Clipper Trojan were attributable, at least in part, to its failure to manage the vessel so as to ensure compliance with MARPOL and US law and regulations, and its failure to diligently enforce company policies prohibiting such conduct.

The dumping of oily waste violates the MARPOL Protocol, an international treaty regulating the handling and disposal of oil waste at sea. Ocean-going vessels like the M/T Clipper Trojan are required by international and US law to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book that records any transfer or disposal of oily waste.

In a precedent-setting plea agreement, the company agreed to retrofit four of its oldest vessels with new, higher capacity Oily Water Separators to bring any discharges within the amounts allowable under MARPOL and U.S. law. The company also agreed to implement a remote monitoring system aboard five of its vessels. The system will allow the Coast Guard and onshore employees of the company to monitor waste levels and the use of oil waste processing equipment in real-time using data transmitted via satellite. Such monitoring should help detect and deter improper discharges of oil waste.

‘Clipper Marine Services has agreed to install real-time monitoring equipment and upgrade environmental controls on various ships as a result of today’s plea agreement,’ said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. ‘This is an important step towards compliance with US and international law that will become the standard for the industry.’

‘The Coast Guard is satisfied that Clipper Marine Services is taking responsibility for the crimes it has committed,’ said Rear Admiral Timothy S. Sullivan, Commander, First Coast Guard District, US Coast Guard. ‘The terms of this agreement demonstrate that Clipper Marine Services is directly targeting and improving problem areas, and I am encouraged by their willingness to retrofit the latest OWS and monitoring technologies. The commercial shipping industry would be well served to follow Clipper Marine Se


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