Italian Ship Owner Fined $1 Million for Concealing Discharges of Oily Wastewater into Sea

A shipping company headquartered in Italy and the chief engineer of one of its ships were sentenced today in federal court in Mobile, Ala., for deliberately falsifying records to conceal discharges of oily wastewater from the ship directly into the sea.  Giusseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade in the Southern District of Alabama to pay a $1 million criminal fine, serve four years of probation, and make a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  The company must also fund and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan during the term of probation.  Chief Engineer Vito La Forgia was sentenced by Judge Granade to one month in jail.

Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A., the owner and operator of the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger, pleaded guilty on July 11, 2012, to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law.  Vito La Forgia, the ship’s chief engineer, pleaded guilty on July 12, 2012, to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

According to papers filed in court, between Dec. 19, 2011, and Jan. 25, 2012, Vito La Forgia and other senior Bottiglieri Shipping Company employees discharged oily bilge waste from the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger on multiple occasions as the vessel sailed from Singapore to Brazil and then from Brazil to Mobile.  The vessel arrived in the Port of Mobile on Jan. 25, 2012, and underwent a Coast Guard inspection.  Based on information provided to the Coast Guard by engine department crewmembers and evidence discovered during the Coast Guard’s inspection, it was evident that there were internal transfers and discharges of oily waste into the ocean that were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book as required.  The deliberate overboard discharges of oily waste were accomplished through the use of a “magic pipe” that connected the ship’s purifier sludge tank with the ship’s bilge holding tank, the contents of which were then pumped overboard without first being processed through required pollution prevention control equipment designed to detect and prevent discharges containing more than 15 parts per million oil.

Federal and international law requires that all ships comply with pollution regulations that include proper disposal of oily water and sludge by passing the oily water through a separator aboard the vessel or burning the sludge in the ship’s incinerator.  Federal law also requires ships to accurately record each disposal of oily water or sludge in an oil record book and to have the record book available for the U.S. Coast Guard when the vessel is within the waters of the United States.

“This case represents a second tremendous win for our environment in just the past few months,” said Kenyen Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.  “The U.S. relies on vessel crews and their management companies to provide accurate logs and records when calling on U.S. ports to ensure oily wastes are discharged properly at sea. The U.S. is fully committed to prosecuting those cases where vessels cover-up improper oily waste discharges at sea through the use of falsified logs.  Our aim is twofold, to preserve our natural resources for future generations, and second, to clean up a corrupt corporate culture that would place greed above all else.  I am also pleased that my office was able to play a role in securing another $300,000 for waterway preservation and conservation projects in the Mobile Bay and throughout the Southern District of Alabama.  This prosecution would not have been possible without the hard work of the U.S. Coast Guard at Sector Mobile and District Eight, Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service, the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section.”

“The government will continue to work tirelessly to ensure companies and employees who do not comply with environmental regulations are held accountable for operating in a manner that harms the marine environment and endangers our nation's resources. I applaud the professionalism and dedication of the members of the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice as they investigated, prepared, and prosecuted these cases,” said Rear Admiral Roy A. Nash, Eighth Coast Guard District Commander.

“The laws are there to protect the oceans and waterways from being used as dumping grounds for waste oil or contaminated waste water,” said Maureen O'Mara, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Atlanta.  “Commercial vessels must operate safely and legally, and this sentencing sends a clear message that those who violate the law and pollute U.S. or international waters will be vigorously prosecuted.”

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service in Mobile and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division in Gulf Breeze, Fla.  Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and Trial Attorneys Todd Mikolop and Gary Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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