Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Yet Another International Shipping Company Falls Foul of US Environmental Awareness

Whistle Blower Reports Vessel for Dumping Oily Water Offshore
Shipping News Feature

US – Florida was the latest state successfully prosecute one of the 'fly tippers of the ocean' when the federal court before US District Court Judge Paul G. Byron in Orlando sentenced a Japanese-based company engaged in international shipping, Misuga Kaiun Co. Ltd, to pay a fine of $1.5 million.

The Tokyo headquartered group (motto ‘A Passion to Quality') was additionally ordered to implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of its four years of probation. The company had pleaded guilty to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to accurately maintain an oil record book that covered up discharges of oily water from the MV Diamond Queen.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said the world’s oceans are an important natural resource and that this prosecution demonstrated the department’s continuing commitment to protecting ocean resources and upholding the rule of law. Support came from US Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida, who said:

“Our oceans and waterways are essential to the health and balance of the world’s ecosystem. Those who act with reckless disregard for the safety of our environment by wilfully polluting or contaminating it put everyone at risk, and will be held accountable for their actions.”

In pleading guilty, Misuga admitted that the chief engineer on board the Diamond Queen, a 34,800 gross-tonne, 656-foot ocean-going commercial bulk carrier, knowingly failed to record the overboard discharge of oily bilge water without the use of required pollution-prevention equipment. The discharges occurred on multiple occasions, from approximately April 2019 until the vessel arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida, on May 22, 2020.

The chief engineer, Cloyd Dimapilis, also pleaded guilty to falsifying the oil record book, and was sentenced to one year of probation, the sentences leading said Rear Adm. Eric C. Jones, Commander Coast Guard District Seven, to comment:

“The results announced today send a strong message to anyone who seeks to take shortcuts and intentionally pollute our environment. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of our marine inspectors from Marine Safety Detachment Cape Canaveral, as well as our special agents from Coast Guard Investigative Service Southeast Region, during a time when many may think we are distracted by the pandemic.

We will continue to work with our Department of Justice and environmental protection partners to hold accountable any who put profit above regulations, threaten our coastal ecosystems and jeopardize our waters and harbours for future generations.”

According to the plea agreement, Misuga operated the Diamond Queen and, prior to the ship’s arrival in Port Canaveral on May 22, a junior crewmember informed the US Coast Guard that he had information about illegal discharges that had taken place on the vessel. The Coast Guard dispatched Port State Control Examiners to conduct an inspection of the vessel.

Examiners discovered evidence of the system that was used to discharge oily water from the vessel in order to bypass the vessel’s oily water separator. Special Agent in Charge, Zinnia James of the Southeast Region of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, observed:

“The Coast Guard Investigative Service will continue to proactively investigate environmental crime, which costs our communities not only monetarily but also impacts the health and safety of our waterways, and all those who rely on them.

The case was the result of an investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Marine Safety Detachment Port Canaveral, and Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville with Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant US Attorney John Gardella of the Middle District of Florida, prosecuting.