Abracadabra! Italian Shipowner, Chief Engineer Pull Jail Time and Fine From “Magic Pipe”

Pictured: M/V Bottiglieri Challenger

A federal court in Mobile, AL on Wednesday handed down a stiff fine and jail time to an Italian-based shipping company and one of it’s Chief Engineers who had been found guilty in connection to yet another magic pipe case.

The U.S. Department of Justice sentenced Giusseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A, Italian owner and operator of the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger, 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. At the same time the court sentenced Chief Engineer of the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger, Vito La Forgia, to one month in prison.

Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A. 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 but dodged two counts of obstruction of Justice that could have sent him to prison for up to 20 years.

According court documents, 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. When the vessel arrived in the Port of Mobile on Jan. 25, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered evidence of internal transfers and discharges of oily waste into the ocean that were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book as required. The USCG says that the unrecorded discharges 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.

The case is the latest in a string of “magic pipe” pollution cases and cover-ups uncovered by the U.S. Coast Guard that have resulted in millions of dollars in fines and jail time.