March 7, 2007
$150,000 penalty for concealing deck cracks
Maltese corporation Twilight Marine has been ordered to pay a $50,000 criminal fine and $100,000 in restitution after an incident in which the ship's master ordered that two large cracks on the deck of the 1984-built, Maltese-flag bulker Warrior be covered with tape and painted over to conceal them.
Yesterday, in Oakland, Twighlight Marine pleaded guilty to grossly negligent operation of a vessel .
Twighlight Marine admitted that in September 2006, the M/V Warrior crossed the Atlantic Ocean, traveling toward North America. During this crossing, several sailors onboard the M/V Warrior identified several small cracks and rust holes in the starboard side deck. The crew immediately welded these cracks and holes. Soon after, several sailors identified two large cracks, each approximately three feet in length, on the port side deck of the vessel.
Instead of directing that the cracks be welded, the vessel's Master ordered the cracks to be covered with tape and painted over to blend in with the painting on the deck.
Twighlight Marine admitted that it knew its vessel was in a hazardous condition during the Atlantic crossing in that these two cracks were not properly repaired.
In November 2006, the M/V Warrior arrived in the San Francisco Bay. On November 22, 2006, the Coast Guard boarded the vessel to conduct an inspection. During this inspection, the Coast Guard discovered the two large cracks on the Port side of the deck which Twighlight Marine failed to disclose.
Restitution in this case was directed to be paid into the previously created Northern Coastal California Restoration Fund, which was previously seeded with $700,000 in restitution from two prior criminal cases. The first case was United States v. Hoegh Fleet Services, in which the Norwegian operator of the motor ship the Hoegh Minerva paid $500,000 in restitution into the Fund for violating the False Statement Statute, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ¤ 1001, and Failing to Maintain an Accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 33 U.S.C. ¤ 1908. The second case was United States v. MMS Co., Ltd., in which the Japanese operator of the motor vessel the Spring Drake paid $200,000 in restitution into the Fund for Failing to Maintain an Accurate Oil Record Book, in violation of 33 U.S.C. ¤ 1908.
As part of its guilty plea, the company also agreed to abide by an environmental compliance program under which its crew members would be properly trained.
According to a court filing, the investigation forced 22 crew members to stay in San Francisco as the company repaired the ship.