Repeat Offender MST to Pay $3.2. Million Criminal Fine in U.S. ‘Magic Pipe’ Pollution Case

marguerita cargo ship
File Photo: Paul Beesley / MarineTraffic.com

German shipping company MST Mineralien Schiffahrt (MST) will pay a $3.2 million fine after pleading guilty to obstructing justice and falsifying oil record books in order to conceal pollution from one of its ships calling in Portland, Maine, the U.S. Justice Department has announced.

MST pleaded guilty in Portland, Maine last Friday to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and one count of obstruction of justice for using falsified log books to hide intentional discharges of oily bilge waste from its MV Marguerita, which took place over a nine-month period as the ship regularly made port calls in Portland, Maine.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced the company pursuant to a plea agreement and ordered it to pay a $3.2 million criminal fine and serve a four-year term of probation during which vessels operated by the company will be required to implement an environmental compliance plan, including inspections by an independent auditor.

MST, a vessel operator based in Bavaria, Germany, was convicted of similar environmental crimes in the District of Minnesota in 2016. The company was serving probation related to that offense when it committed the crimes charged in Maine.

The federal case in Minnesota involved the falsification of the oil record book for the M/V Cornelia, which concealed deliberate discharges of oil-contaminated bilge waste, including discharges into the Great Lakes.

According to documents filed in court, MST discharged oily bilge waste from the Marguerita through the use of a so-called “magic pipe” that bypasses required pollution prevention equipment. The discharges violated MARPOL, an international treaty and were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book, a required ship log regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard to assure compliance.

“Today’s action demonstrates that the Coast Guard and the Justice Department will not stand by while foreign vessels intentionally pollute our oceans and then try to cover up their criminal acts by lying to the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. “This company is a repeat offender, which makes plain that it has shown contempt for the rule of law. I applaud the investigators and prosecutors who obtained this result.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England which conducted the inspection of the ship.

The MV Marguerita was christened in Portland, Maine in 2016.