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Marine Log

February 7, 2008

Guilty pleas in pollution case

File this one under "when will they ever learn?" The U.S. Department of Justice today announced what seems to be the first "magic pipe" plea of 2008.

Italian shipping company BNavi Ship Management Services and Chief Engineer Dushko Babukchiev have pleaded guilty in connection with the illegal dumping of oily sludge, bilge wastes and oil contaminated ballast water from one of the company's ships, the M/V Windsor Castle, Assistant Attorney General Ronald J. Tenpas, U.S. Attorney Donald J. DeGabrielle Jr., and U.S. Coast Guard Captain James E. Tunstall announced.

According to the Department of Justice the 27,000 gt vessel is a bulk carrier. However, the Equasis date base identifies the 1982-built, Cayman Islands flag vessel as a general cargo ship.

BNavi Ship Management Services pleaded guilty today to a two-count criminal information charging it with violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and making materially false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Chief Engineer Babukchiev pleaded guilty yesterday to a one-count criminal information charging him with making materially false statements to the Coast Guard.

Chief Engineer Babukchiev will be sentenced on Feb. 15, 2008, and the company will be sentenced on April 23, 2008.

"Those who mislead the Coast Guard and take deliberate steps to pollute our seas will face prosecution," said Assistant Attorney General Tenpas.

Engine room operations on-board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/V Windsor Castle generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by a device known as an oil water separator. The law also requires that all of the oil transferred onto, off of, or between tanks within a ship be recorded in an oil record book so all the oil on a ship can be accounted for when the ship is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to the plea agreements, on Aug. 17, 2007, the M/V Windsor Castle arrived at port in Houston, Texas, and was boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard.

During the boarding, Coast Guard inspectors learned that Chief Engineer Babukchiev had ordered crew members to dump oil sludge and bilge wastes into the ocean and had falsified the ship's oil record book to conceal these discharges. With assistance from several lower level crew members, Coast Guard inspectors discovered and seized the bypass hose and pipes used to dump the oil sludge, bilge waste, and contaminated ballast water overboard.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service working with marine investigators and vessel inspectors of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston. The prosecution was handled by prosecutors in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas.

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