Bulker operator cops plea in “magic pipe” case

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Lisbon, Portugal, based Portline Bulk International S.A .yesterday pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and one count of obstruction of justice.

The charges stem from the falsification of the Oil Record Book onboard the M/V Achilleus, a Maltese-flagged ocean-going bulk carrier managed by Portline.

According to court documents, Portline has agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1.5 million when the company is sentenced at a future date. The company would also be placed on organizational probation for four years, which includes an environmental compliance plan.

From April 2017 to August 2018, says the U.S. Department of Justice, senior members of the vessel’s engineering team oversaw and participated in the bypass of the ship’s Oil Water Separator utilizing a yellow plastic hose, referred to as a magic pipe.

The ship’s Chief Engineer made a series of fake entries and key omissions in the Oil Record Book in order to conceal the illegal overboard discharges of oily bilge water. On Aug. 14, 2018, the false Oil Record Book was presented to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) during an inspection in the Port of Charleston.

On June 17, 2019, the ship’s former Chief Engineer Anatoli Zotsenko and Second Engineer Valerii Pastushenko, who had previously pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, were sentenced to fines totaling $12,500 and three years’ probation. The probation term includes a special condition that bans Zotsenko and Pastushenko from entering ports and anchorages of the United States.

“Our team of dedicated marine safety and pollution response professionals worked closely with the Coast Guard Investigative Service to investigate this incident and refer it for enforcement action,” said Captain John Reed, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston. “This case highlights the Coast Guard’s unwavering commitment to the stewardship of the ocean and its critical marine environment.”

The Justice Department says that the USCG Marine Safety Lab was critical to the analysis of oil samples taken from the vessel.

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