Environmental Protection

Offshore Vessels Pleads Guilty to Dumping Oil on High Seas

Offshore Vessels LLC (OSV) has entered a plea of guilty to knowingly discharging waste oil from one of its vessels, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), the Justice Department announced on July 30. OSV, based in Louisiana, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

OSV owned and operated the R/V Laurence M. Gould, which is a 2,966 gross ton American-flagged vessel that served on a contractual basis as an ice-breaking research vessel for the National Science Foundation on research voyages to and from Antarctica. OSV admitted that on or about Sept. 8, 2005, on the high seas, R/V Gould crew members knowingly discharged oily wastewater from the bilge tank of the ship overboard, in violation APPS. Regulations under APPS require that oily wastewater be discharged only after it has been processed through an oily water separator, to ensure that the concentration of oil in the wastewater is below the legal limit.

The plea agreement requires the company to pay a criminal fine of $1.75 million and remit a payment of $350,000 as community service to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, to be used for study of polar water pollution and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Antarctic region. OSV will also serve a period of probation for three years, during which it will be subject to an Environmental Compliance Plan.

"The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue all vessel companies, American and foreign, that deliberately violate the laws enacted to protect the oceans," said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno. "This case is particularly egregious because the defendant is an American company tasked with providing passage for the National Science Foundation in order for it to perform important environmental research in Antarctica."

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Daniel Dooher, Environmental Crimes Section, Department of Justice; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor, Eastern District of Louisiana.

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