Operator, chief engineer caught in magic pipe incident

FEBRUARY 18, 2015—In what appears to be another “magic pipe” incident, U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler recently announced that AML Ship Management GMBH, and a chief engineer of the M/V City of Tokyo, a vehicle carrier ship it operated, were charged with knowingly dumping oil into U.S. waters off the coast of Alaska in August 2014 in violation of the Clean Water Act.

 

Furthermore, AML and the chief engineer, Nicolas Sassin, were also charged in separate cases filed 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 the City of Tokyo arrived in port in Portland, OR, in September 2014.  The Clean Water Act charges in Alaska and the APPS charges in Oregon are felony offenses.

 

Under the terms of a plea agreement filed in federal court o February 12, AML will plead guilty to the Clean Water Act and APPS charges, pay a total of $800,000 in fines and community service payments, implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan, and will be placed on probation for three years.  Chief engineer Sassin also signed a plea agreement filed in court agreeing to plead guilty to the Alaska and Oregon charges.

 

Defendant AML is the operator of the M/V City of Tokyo, a vehicle carrier vessel that operates under the Liberian.  It was built in 1987, weighs 42,247 gross tons, and is 603 feet long.

 

Sassin worked as the chief engineer of the M/V City of Tokyo between May 28, 2014 and September 6, 2014, when the vessel arrived in Oregon and was contacted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

On August 22, 2014, the M/V City of Tokyo departed South Korea and travelled through the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the United States off the coast of Alaska arriving in Canada on September 2, 2014.  The vessel departed Canada on September 3, 2014.  The M/V City of Tokyo arrived in Tacoma, Washington on September 4, 2014, and remained there until departing for Portland, Oregon.  The M/V City of Tokyo arrived in Portland, Oregon on September 5, 2014.

 

As the operator of the M/V City of Tokyo, AML was responsible for operating the Oil Water Separator (OWS) and maintaining an accurate Oil Record Book.  As the Chief Engineer, Nicolas Sassin was responsible for the pollution control equipment in the M/V City of Tokyo’s engine room, including running the OWS and maintaining the Oil Record Book.

 

The federal charges allege that on or about August 29, 2014, Chief Engineer Sassin knowingly discharged oily bilge water into the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone off the coast of Alaska which may have affected natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, and under the exclusive management authority of the United States and in a quantity that may be harmful.

 

Specifically, AML admits that while the M/V City of Tokyo was 165 nautical miles south of the Aleutian Islands, specifically Sanak Island, Alaska, the chief engineer used an illegal pump system—“magic pipe” in industry parlance—to knowingly discharge about 4,500 gallons of oily bilge water directly overboard.  The illegal pump system consisted of a fabricated flanged fitting that connected the overboard discharge valve and pipe to a pneumatic Wilden pump. The pump’s suction was connected to a hose that was fed down the sounding tube for the bilge holding tank.  The illegal pump system allowed the vessel’s crew to discharge oily bilge water from the bilge holding tank directly overboard without processing it through the required pollution prevention equipment (OWS and oil content meter).  The overboard discharge created a sheen in the water off the stern of the vessel, and this was witnessed by crewmembers aboard the M/V City of Tokyo. The illegal pump system was dismantled prior to the vessel’s arrival in Portland.

 

AML knowingly failed to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book as required by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).

 

Chief Engineer Sassin and AML are also charged with failing to record this discharge of oil into the sea by way of the illegal pump system and overboard discharge valve in the M/V City of Tokyo’s Oil Record Book, and with knowingly presenting the false and fictitious Oil Record Book to the U.S. Coast Guard and/or had it available for inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard when the M/V City of Tokyo arrived in Portland, Oregon on September 5, 2014.

The M/V City of Tokyo was initially inspected and detained in Portland, OR, by the U.S. Coast Guard marine inspectors.  These cases were investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and are being prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, and the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.

 

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