An Italian shipping firm has pleaded guilty and agrees to pay a $2.75 million criminal penalty for falsifying oil record books in relation to the use of a so-called ‘magic pipe’ aboard one of its ships.
The U.S. Justice Department made the announcement Tuesday that Genoa-based Carbofin S.PA. (Carbofin) 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. Under the terms of its plea agreement, Carbofin agreed to pay a $2.75 million criminal penalty, including $600,000 which will go towards supporting the protection and preservation of natural resources located in and adjacent to the Florida National Keys Marine Sanctuary.
Second engineer aboard the MT Marigola, Alessandro Messore, also pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for his role in the offense. Meanwhile second officer, Carmelo Giano, who served as the ship’s chief engineer and was the person responsible for maintaining the ship’s oil record book, is expected to enter a plea to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships on Friday.
According to documents and statements made in court, the investigation began when two crewmembers alerted U.S. Coast Guard inspectors of the offense during a routine Port State Control examination when the MT Marigola called on the Port of Tampa on April 16, 2014. During the examination, the two crewmembers presented the inspectors with cell phone video showing a black hose connected between two points in the engine room. The inspectors were able to determine that the hose, known in the maritime industry as a “magic pipe” or “magic hose”, had been used on multiple occasions to discharge sludge, waste oil, and machinery space bilge water directly into the sea, bypassing the ship’s required pollution prevention equipment.
Crewmembers told the inspectors that Giano, the Chief Engineer at the time, had directed them on at least two occasions to discharge sludge, waste oil, and bilge water directly into the sea, while in international waters. Giano then falsified the ship’s oil record book by not recording the discharges.
The investigation also revealed that Messore, the second engineer, under direction of Giano, had on several occasions ordered the ship’s engineering cadet to hook up the magic hose and then personally discharged discharge sludge, waste oil, and machinery space bilge water directly into the sea, under the cover of darkness, while the vessel was in international waters.
Under International law, a ship’s sludge and waste oil are required to be disposed by either incineration in the vessel’s onboard incinerator or disposal to a barge or other shore-based disposal facility. Bilge water, meanwhile, must an also be disposed of in only two ways: process through the onboard oil water separator and oil content meter resulting in an overboard discharge of water with no more than 15 parts per million of oil; or disposal to a barge or other shore-based disposal facility. All disposals and transfers of sludge, waste oil, or bilge water, regardless of disposal method, must be recorded by the person or persons in charge of those operations in the vessel’s oil record book.
Obviously, in this case there was no intent in abiding by these requirements.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.