Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

feedburner count

Friday, August 14, 2009

Keep 'em coming - no let-up in US DOJ prosecutions for falsification of oil record books

Friday, 14 August 2009

Last month saw yet another case of crew using falsified records to conceal improper discharges of untreated bilge waste. The Chief and Second Engineer of the Cyprus-flagged M/V Myron N, a dry bulk carrier operated and managed by Dalnave Navigation Inc., pleaded guilty to concealing vessel pollution. Each face up to three years' imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release and a USD 250,000 fine. Sentencing will take place in September this year. For further information, please see the US Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. 
This comes on top of the sentencing last month of the Spanish operator of an ocean-going chemical tanker ship, M/T Nautilus, to pay a fine of more than USD 2 million for polluting the high seas after pleading guilty to conspiracy, falsification of records, obstruction of justice, and failing to maintain an accurate oil record book on the vessel. The company was also sentenced to serve three years of probation, during which time it must implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program. There were two Chief Engineers involved in this extended cover-up, and they both pleaded guilty in earlier proceedings. One Chief Engineer was sentenced to serve one month in prison, the other one week in prison and a fine of USD 2,000. See the DOJ news release for further information.
BIMCO has been reporting on a spate of judgments in the US relating to falsification of records and failure to maintain an accurate oil record book. In this year alone, there have been at least seven cases of vessel pollution offences being pursued by the DOJ.
It is therefore important for members to be aware that the US Coast Guard and the DOJ will fully investigate and vigorously prosecute cases involving the suspected falsification of the oil record book. Owners, managers and operators must institute voluntary compliance programs to reduce the likelihood of such falsifications and crew members (particularly engineering officers) must adopt new practices. In particular, members should note the following:
•    these prosecutions are for violations not only of MARPOL regulations but also of US domestic legislation;
•    the US has jurisdiction to prosecute and sentence even where the offences are committed outside US territorial waters;
•    the severe sentences are not only in respect of the pollution itself but also the act of lying to US officials;
•    successful prosecution may result in fines and compliance programmes for the owner or management companies as well as fines and/or prison sentences for the individual officers involved;
•    the US authorities routinely award considerable "whistleblower" awards to crew members or other individuals who report illegal discharges and falsification of record books.
It therefore continues to be essential that shipowners and managers are fastidious in enforcing their environmental compliance programmes, in identifying and correcting improper discharge practices, and in ensuring that a vessel’s required records are accurate and verifiable. Whilst the lack of a compliance programme  is not in itself an offence, the presence of an effective and fully implemented one may be used to persuade the government not to prosecute in the first place - although it should be emphasised that this does not serve as a defence in the prosecution of the above violations.
Source: BIMCO