Puerto Rico-Based Shipping Company to Pay $700K for Intentionally Covering Up Oil Pollution
Epps Shipping Company, a Liberian corporation doing business out of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was sentenced in federal court for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and making false statements to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors, announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno and United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.
The company was sentenced to pay a $700,000 criminal penalty to include a $100,000 payment toward community service projects to rehabilitate and protect coral reefs in Guanica Bay, Puerto Rico. In addition, the company was placed on five years of supervised probation and will have to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan (ECP) to monitor and evaluate pollution prevention continuously from any ship it owns or operates.
“This sentence puts the international shipping industry on notice that there are serious consequences for violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and making false statements to the United States Coast Guard,” Moreno said. “For its criminal violations of the law, Epps will pay a significant criminal penalty, serve five years of probation, institute an environmental compliance plan designed to prevent further violations, and will be subject to independent monitoring. Epps also will fund projects to protect coral reefs in Puerto Rico.”
Epps Shipping Company owned and controlled the M/V Carib Vision, a commercial ship that was engaged in the transportation of molasses throughout the Caribbean region. On Nov. 6, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an inspection of the vessel in the port of San Juan, P.R. The Coast Guard learned from inspecting the engine room and interviewing crewmembers that the vessel’s Oil Water Separator and other pollution prevention equipment was inoperable and could not be used to treat the vessel’s oily waste before it was discharged overboard. The investigation revealed that before Nov. 6, 2010, the crew of the vessel used the emergency bilge discharge system to dump its oily waste directly overboard without first processing it through the ship’s pollution prevention equipment as required. All overboard discharges of oil or oily bilge wastewater are required to be recorded in the vessel’s Oil Record Book. None of these discharges were recorded in the Oil Record Book for the M/V Carib Vision.
During the period of probation, Epps Shipping Company will be required to implement a comprehensive ECP, which will ensure that any ship owned or operated by Epps complies with all maritime environmental requirements established under applicable international, flag state, and port state laws. The ECP ensures that Epps’ employees and the crew of any vessel owned or operated by Epps are properly trained in preventing maritime pollution. An independent monitor will report to the court about Epps’ compliance with its obligations during the period of probation.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The case was prosecuted by Marshal Morgan in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Puerto Rico and by Ken Nelson in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.