Pollution and lying bring $4 million fine, four years probation

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Two Marousi, Greece, based companies — Avin International and Nicos I.V. Special Maritime Enterprises — will pay a $4 million fine and serve a four-year term of probation on charges relating to several discharges of oil into the waters of Texas ports by the oil tanker M/T Nicos I.V.

Avin International is the operator and Nicos I.V. Special Maritime Enterprises is the owner of the Greek-flagged vessel.

Both companies pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an agency proceeding, one count of failure to report discharge of oil under the Clean Water Act.

The Master of the Nicos I.V., Rafail-Thomas Tsoumakos, and the vessel’s Chief Officer, Alexios Thomopoulos, also pleaded guilty to making material false statements to members of the United States Coast Guard during the investigation into the discharges. They were sentenced to pay fines of $10,000 each on Dec. 20, 2018.

According to documents filed in court, at some point prior to July 6, 2017, the ballast system of the Nicos I.V. became contaminated with oil and that oil was discharged twice from the vessel into the Port of Houston on July 6 and July 7, 2017, during deballasting operations. Both Tsoumakos and Thomopoulos were informed of the discharges of oil in the Port of Houston. Tsoumakos failed to report the discharges, which, as the person in charge of the vessel, he was required to do under the Clean Water Act. Neither discharge was recorded in the vessel’s oil record book, as required under MARPOL and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

After leaving the Port of Houston, en route to Port Arthur, Texas, oil was observed in several of the ballast tanks. After arriving in Port Arthur, additional oil began bubbling up next to the vessel, which was then reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. During the ensuing investigation, both Tsoumakos and Thomopoulos lied to the Coast Guard, stating, among other things, that they had not been aware of the oil in the ballast system until after the discharge in Port Arthur, and that they believed that the oil in the ballast tanks had entered them when the vessel took on ballast water in Port Arthur.

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