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December 5, 2005

Guilty plea in containership pollution case

The Second Engineer of the containership MSC Elena pleaded guilty, December 1, in federal court in Boston to violating an anti-pollution act in connection with his failure to maintain proper records and functioning equipment to monitor the overboard discharge of oil-contaminated bilge waste.

Aman Mahana, age 29, of India, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge William G. Young to a criminal Information charging him with one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

According to an announcement by U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Kelly A. Johnson, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division; and William Schenkelberg, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the prosecutor told the plea hearing that, had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would have proven that, Mahana was the Second Engineer on the MSC Elena, a 30,971 ton ocean-going container ship owned by Mediterranean Shipping Company headquartered in Switzerland. The MSC Elena made regular voyages from ports in Europe across the Atlantic to ports in the United States, including Boston.

As Second Engineer, Mahana was second in command of the MSC Elena's engine room and responsible for overseeing most of the functions of the engine room and the mechanical operation of the vessel.

On May 16, 2005, in the Port of Boston, Mahana maintained an Oil Record Book that falsely reported and/or omitted overboard discharges of oily sludge and oil-contaminated bilge waste that created the false and misleading impression that the vessel was being operated properly and was fully maintaining an accurate record.

Chief U.S. District Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for February 2, 2006. Mahana faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Mitchell in Sullivan's Economic Crimes Unit, Trial Attorneys Richard Udell and Malinda Lawrence in the Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Luke Reid