Magic pipe case Chief Engineer gets prison term

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slammerdoorDimitrios Grifakis, 57, of Kallithea, Greece, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis to six months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for obstructing a Coast Guard inspection that took place in May 2010 aboard a Liberian-operated cargo ship M/V Capitola at the Port of Baltimore, says the U.S. Department of Justice.   Grifakis was then the Chief Engineer of the Capitola.

In a related case, Cardiff Marine Inc., the Liberian-registered shipping company and operator of the Capitola previously pleaded guilty to obstructing a Coast Guard examination and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The company was sentenced in February 2011 to pay a $2.4 million fine, and to serve three years probation, subject to an environmental compliance plan that includes audits by an independent third party auditor.

According to Grifakis’ guilty plea and other court documents, the investigation into the M/V Capitola was launched on May 3, 2010, at the Port of Baltimore, after a crew member informed a clergy member, who was on board the Capitola on a pastoral visit, that there had been “monkey business in the engine room,” which involved a “magic pipe”  … a bypass hose that allowed the dumping of waste oil overboard, circumventing pollution prevention equipment required by law. The crew member asked the minister to alert the Coast Guard which triggered an inspection of the Capitola.

At his plea hearing, says the Department of Justice, Grifakis admitted that from about March 2009 through May 3, 2010, he repeatedly ordered his subordinates to illegally pump oil-contaminated waste directly into the ocean, most commonly through the “magic pipe.”   However, during the investigation, Grifakis falsely denied having ordered anyone to pump oily waste overboard and falsified documents to hide these discharges from inspectors in ports visited by the Capitola.

The Department of Justice says that Grifakis also obstructed the investigation by concealing certain ship’s records and then denying that such records existed.   Specifically, he concealed the Capitola’s daily sounding record, which is a daily measurement of the contents of the ship’s waste tanks. This record would have been useful during the Coast Guard’s inspection of the Capitola in that it could have shown when the levels of the waste tanks changed, which could be compared to entries in the oil record book. Sudden, unexplained drops in the measurements could have indicated specific dates when wastes were discharged overboard. The daily sounding record was not produced to the Coast Guard. Grifakis also directed other members of the engine room crew to lie to investigators and claim that the Capitola did not have a daily record of soundings.

June 17, 2011

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