The Marshall Islands registered MV Joanna (IMO 9460277). Credit: MarineTraffic.com/Steven Watkins

Greek Shipping Companies and Chief Engineer Charged with Concealing Deliberate Pollution from Bulk Carrier

Mike Schuler
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October 1, 2021

The Greek owner and operator and a Chief Engineer were indicted in U.S. Federal Court in New Orleans Thursday for violations of environmental and safety laws related to the MV Joanna, a Marshall Islands registered bulk carrier

The four-count grand jury indictment alleges that Empire Bulkers Ltd., Joanna Maritime Limited and Chief Engineer Warlito Tan tampered with required oil pollution prevention equipment and falsified the ship’s Oil Record Book, an official ship log regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard found that the ship’s Oily Water Separator had been bypassed by inserting a piece of metal into the Oil Content Meter so that it would only detect clean water instead of what was actually being discharged overboard. According to the indictment, Tan and the shipping companies falsified the log and sought to obstruct the Coast Guard’s inspection.

The defendants also were charged with violating the Ports and Waterways Safety Act by failing to immediately report a hazardous situation that affected the safety of the ship and threatened U.S. ports and waters. During the inspection on March 11, 2021, the Coast Guard discovered an active fuel oil leak in the ship’s purifier room that resulted from disabling the fuel oil heater pressure relief valves, an essential safety feature designed to prevent catastrophic fires and explosions.

The criminal prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Dall Kammer for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Senior Litigation Counsel Richard A. Udell of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance provided by District 8 of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Criminal Investigations Division.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Duane Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana made the announcement.

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