Ship Operator, Chief Engineer Plead Guilty to Falsifying Records

Reederei Karl Schlueter, an operator for GmbH & Co. KG (RKS), a ship management company, and Chief Engineer Nikola Ilijic, an officer on a ship operated by RKS, pleaded guilty on June 16 to a charge that they falsified the Oil Record Book pertaining to the commercial vessel M/V MSC Uruguay.

The Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Pat Meehan made the announcement in a press release.

Schlueter is of Rendsburg, Germany, and Ilijic is of Rijeka, Croatia.

Federal and international law requires that all ships follow pollution regulations that include proper disposal of oily water through an Oily Water Separator on board the vessel. Large vessels generate oily water waste when water mixes in the bottom of the vessel (the bilge) with oil leaked and dripped from the machinery and the engines' lubrication and fuel systems. Such oily bilge waste may properly be disposed of by off-loading it to a licensed hauler and disposal facility at port for a fee or by discharging it overboard after the oil is separated out in the Oily Water Separator.

Federal law further requires ships to accurately record each disposal of oily bilge water in an Oil Record Book and to have the Oil Record Book available for the U.S. Coast Guard within the internal waters of the United States.

"The Coast Guard is committed to aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and international requirements designed to prevent pollution at sea," said Capt. Dave Scott, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. "We thoroughly investigate credible reports of alleged illegal discharges of oil and/or tampering with shipboard anti-pollution equipment or falsifying oil discharge records. We work closely with appropriate state and other federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute environmental crimes, to promote compliance with these important environmental protection statutes."

On or about Jan. 25, 2008, the M/V MSC Uruguay arrived in the Port of Philadelphia. Based in part on a letter from some of the crew members of the ship, the Coast Guard conducted an inspection and discovered evidence indicating that the ship discharged bilge waste directly overboard on or about Dec. 2, 2007, Jan. 3, and Jan. 4. The discharges were made using a hose to bypass the vessel's pollution prevention equipment, specifically the Oily Water Separator. The information further alleges that on or about Jan. 25, 2008, the M/V MSC Uruguay presented the ship's Oil Record Book to the Coast Guard, and the Oil Record Book falsely indicated the bilge waste was properly processed through the ship's pollution prevention equipment on Dec. 3, 2007, and Jan. 4.

RKS agreed to pay a $1 million fine and $200,000 to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation as community service. RKS further agreed to three-year probation and to implement an Environmental Compliance Plan as a condition of probation.

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