Japanese shipping company fined $1 million in pollution case

MAY 10, 2018 — Nitta Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (Nitta), a Japanese shipping company that delivered steel products to Wilmington, NC, was today convicted and sentenced for obstruction of justice and falsification of an Oil Record Book to cover-up intentional oil pollution from the 33,457 dwt, 2011-built, Panama flagged M/V Atlantic Oasis, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr.

The Department of Justice says that Nitta owned and operated the M/V Atlantic Oasis and that its prior Chief Engineer, Jihnyun Youn, had previously been convicted and sentenced for falsification of the vessel's that delivered steel products to Wilmington, NC.

Nitta was ordered to pay a fine of $1 million; placed on probation for a period of three years; and further ordered to implement a court-approved comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation, which will be audited throughout probation. Chief Engineer Youn was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay a fine of $5,500.

The company admitted that its engineers failed to document the illegal discharge of oily wastes from the vessel's fuel and lubrication oil purifier systems, as well as discharges of oily bilge waste from the bilge holding tank and from the vessel's bilges.

During a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the vessel on May 17, 2017, says the Department of Justice, a junior engineering crew member provided information to the inspectors about how the oily wastes were being discharged by the order of Chief Engineer Youn. The crew member also showed U.S. Coast Guard inspectors where the hoses that were used for the discharges were hidden. Chief Engineer Youn lied to the inspectors about the existence of a Sounding Log, typically used in the industry to record the fluid levels of various tanks in the engine room. By the end of the inspection, Chief Engineer Youn had admitted to ordering the illegal discharges and admitted that there was a Sounding Log.

"This case demonstrates that those who pollute our oceans and deliberately mislead U.S. Coast Guard Officials will be brought to justice," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood. "The Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute criminals that harm the environment."

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