A Delaware District Court judge imposed a $3 million fine and a five-year probation period on Greek oil company Liquimar Tanker Management and its vessel the Evridiki during the sentencing hearing in a 2019 MARPOL case. The company and chief engineer were convicted in December 2019 of deliberately concealing pollution, but during the sentencing hearing Sentencing Thursday, government prosecutors provided new evidence implicating at least three senior shore employees in efforts to deceive U.S. Coast Guard inspectors.
“Ocean outlaws and polluters such as these will continue to be vigorously prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Human Resources Division. Natural Resources Department of Justice after the sentencing hearing.
The case stems from a March 2019 inspection of the Liberian-flagged tanker Evridiki (167,294 dwt) conducted by the US Coast Guard while the ship was anchored in Delaware Bay. While inspecting the South Korean-built tanker in 2007, the ship’s chief engineer, Nikolaos Vastardis, attempted to mislead Coast Guard inspectors regarding the use of the oily water separator and oil meter. oil content of the vessel. The jury found that Vastardis had used a hidden valve to trap fresh water inside the sample line so that the OCM sensor would register a concentration of zero parts per million of oil instead of what was actually thrown overboard. When the Coast Guard opened the OWS, they found it to be inoperable and clogged with large amounts of oil and soot.
In the 2019 trial, the Coast Guard showed evidence from analysis of historical data retrieved from the machine’s memory chip to prove the meter was tricked. Vastardis appealed the conviction challenging U.S. jurisdiction over foreign vessels, but the conviction was upheld in December 2021.
Government prosecutors on Thursday provided new evidence showing that shore-based personnel helped create fake certificates and seals emailed to the ship on documents attesting to meter calibration and proper valve testing overpressure for the cargo. A fake certificate was used during the inspection, and the Coast Guard said Vastardis was specifically questioned about the validity of the certificate.
Referring to the falsified documents as the “elephant in the room” that the defendants asked the judge to ignore, federal prosecutors told the court that the “failure of the companies to address, let alone mention, this willful misconduct , demonstrates that these defendants are willfully blind if not completely unrepentant.
They demonstrated in court that the documents had been falsified based on the data found on the device. They showed that the meter was not powered on the date the fake certificate claimed the meter was calibrated. Similarly, the pressure relief valve test certificate is dated on a day when the cargo tanks are full. The USCG said it is impossible to test the value when the ship is loaded with cargo.
The US Department of Justice continues to prosecute violations of MARPOL. Over a 20-year period since the 1990s, it was reported that they had obtained convictions against over 140 transport companies.