A Japanese shipping company that delivered steel products to the Wilmington, North Carolina has been convicted and sentenced for obstruction of justice and falsification of an Oil Record Book in an attempt to cover-up intentional oil pollution from the bulk carrier M/V Atlantic Oasis, the U.S. Justice Dept. announced.
The company, Nitta Kisen Kaisha (Nitta), which owned the vessel, has been sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000,000.
The prior Chief Engineer had previously been convicted and sentenced for falsification of the vessel’s Oil Record Book.
The company admitted that its engineers failed to document the illegal discharge of oily wastes from the vessel’s fuel and lubrication oil purifier systems, as well as discharges of oily bilge waste from the bilge holding tank and from the vessel’s bilges.
During a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the vessel on May 17, 2017, a junior engineering crewmember told inspectors about that oily wastes were being discharged by the order of Chief Engineer, Jihnyun Youn. The crewmember also showed U.S. Coast Guard inspectors where the so-called “magic” hoses that were used for the discharges were hidden.
Chief Engineer Youn lied to the inspectors about the existence of a Sounding Log, which is typically used in the industry to record the fluid levels of various tanks in the engine room. By the end of the inspection, Chief Engineer Youn had admitted to ordering the illegal discharges and admitted that there was a Sounding Log.
Nitta was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000,000; placed on probation for a period of three years; and further ordered to implement a court-approved comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation, which will be audited throughout probation. Chief Engineer Youn was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay a fine of $5,500.00.
“This case demonstrates that those who pollute our oceans and deliberately mislead U.S. Coast Guard Officials will be brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Jeffrey H. Wood. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute criminals that harm the environment.”
“While the charges in this case rest on the failure of the ship’s crew to properly document the discharge of oily bilge waste, the heart of this case is the illegal discharge itself and the damage that action did to our environment – particularly our spectacular seashores and waterways – is a critical necessity in the Eastern District of North Carolina,” said United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “We trust that the fines and penalties imposed in this case will act as a deterrent to anyone who would treat our environment as a dump-ground.”
The case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard personnel from Coast Guard Sector North Carolina and Coast Guard Investigative Service S/A Derrick Vachon.