German Ship Operator, Chief Engineer Plead Guilty in ‘Magic Pipe’ Pollution Cases

A German shipping company and the chief engineer of a car carrier it operated have been charged with environmental crimes in two separate cases in Alaska and Oregon relating to the illegal discharge of oil into U.S. waters by way of a magic pipe.

U.S. Attorney for Karen L. Loeffler made the announcement late last week that AML Ship Management GMBH and Nicolas Sassin, Chief Engineer of the company’s Liberian-flagged MV City of Tokyo car carrier, were both charged with violating the Clean Water Act for knowingly dumping oil into United States’ waters off the coast of Alaska in August 2014. Separately, both AML and Chief Engineer Nicolas Sassin have also been charged in the District of Oregon with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) for knowingly creating and presenting false records to the U.S. Coast Guard when it arrived in port in Portland, Oregon in September 2014.

The Clean Water Act charges in Alaska and the APPS charges in Oregon are felony offenses.

The federal charges allege that on or about August 29, 2014, the chief engineer knowingly bypassed the vessel’s Oil Water Separator and discharged oily bilge water directly into the sea while traveling through the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coast Alaska during a voyage from South Korea to Canada and on to Tacoma, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Sassin and AML then failed to record the discharges into the Oil Record Book and knowingly presenting the false and fictitious ORB to the U.S. Coast Guard upon inspection in Portland, Oregon on September 5, 2014.

Under the terms of a plea agreement filed in federal court, AML agreed to plead guilty to the Clean Water Act and APPS charges and pay total fines of $800,000 and receive three years probation. Chief Engineer Sassin also signed a plea agreement agreeing to plead guilty to the Alaska and Oregon charges, although the Justice department did not specify on the terms of the agreement.

Specifically, AML admits that while the M/V City of Tokyo was approximately 165 nautical miles south of Sanak Island in the Aleutian Islands, the Chief Engineer used an illegal pump system, or a so-called “magic pipe”, to knowingly discharge approximately 4,500 gallons of oily bilge water directly overboard. The discharge created a sheen in the water off the stern of the vessel which was then witnessed by other crewmembers aboard the ship.

More reading on ‘Magic Pipe’ Cases.