A federal jury in New Orleans has convicted a chief engineer of environmental crimes relating to the use of a ‘magic pipe’ aboard the vessel he served on in December 2013.
The U.S. Department of Justice reported late Wednesday that Matthaios Fafalios, 64, of Greece, was found guilty of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships by knowingly falsifying his vessel’s oil record book during his service onboard the M/V Trident Navigator. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice and witness tampering as a result.
According to the DOJ release, in late December 2013, Fafalios ordered his engineering crew to construct a so-called “magic pipe”, a hose used to bypass the shipboard pollution prevention equipment and discharge oily waste water that was in the vessel’s bilge holding tank directly into the sea.
Two crewmembers onboard the vessel reported the illegal discharge to the Coast Guard during a boarding of the vessel in New Orleans in January 2014. When coast guard inspectors boarded the vessel, Fafalios then attempted to hide critical documents that indicated the illegal discharge occurred and also ordered engineers under his command to lie to the Coast Guard about the illegal oily waste water discharge.
The operator of the vessel, Marine Managers LTD., had previously pleaded guilty to knowingly falsifying the oil record book and obstruction of justice and paid a total criminal penalty of $900,000.
Following the allegation in January, Captain Marcos Papadopoulos, a 50-year maritime industry veteran and CEO of Marine Managers, expressed ‘absolute frustration’ over the alleged crimes, noting that the ship, her crew, and her operators had been placed on the USCG’s “elite” list, indicating a history of compliant shipping operations while in U.S. waters.
“The vessel was in drydock about six months ago where the generator and the oily water separator were both overhauled and when checked by the USCG, were found to be in excellent working condition. Everyone here is puzzled, we cannot find a possible reason or why this could have taken place,” said Captain Papadopoulos of the allegations in January.
A statement released by the DOJ upon Marine Managers guilty plea in June said that although the actions of the crewmembers on the vessel were contrary to the written policies and procedures Marine Managers, the company acknowledged and accepted that it is vicariously liable for its employees’ actions.
The announcement of Fafalios’ conviction follows a guilty plea in a similar ‘magic pipe’ case by the Italian shipping firm Carbofin S.PA. that was announced on Tuesday. As gCaptain reported, the company agreed to plead guilty to three counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships related to the deliberate concealment of vessel pollution from its ship, the LPG tanker Marigola, which called on Tampa on three occasions in 2013 and 2014 with a falsified oil record book. As part of the plea agreement, the company agreed to pay a $2.75 million fine.