Reefer owner, manager to pay $1.8 million in pollution plea deal

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Two Athens, Greece, based companies are to pay a $1.8 million criminal penalty under a plea agreement in relation to various charges involving the 13,049 gt, 1991-built, Bahamas-flagged refrigerated cargo containership Nederland Reefer.

The companies, both incorporated in Liberia, are reefer operator Chartworld Shipping Company and Nederlands Shipping Company, a one-ship company that uses Chartworld’s address. According to the Equasis data base, Chartworld Shipping is the manager of the Nederland Reefer and Nederlands Shipping is its registered owner.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the two companies today pleaded guiltyy in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, to failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on one if its vessels and to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) by presenting false documents to the Coast Guard that covered up vessel oil pollution.

On Feb. 21, 2019, when the Coast Guard’s Lewes, Del., based Marine Safety Detachment conducted a Port State Control examination of the Nederland Reefer. During the course of the inspection, the Coast Guard determined that the vessel’s Chief Engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been repeatedly tricking the oil content monitoring device on the vessel’s oily water separator (OWS) with fresh water and discharging untreated oily bilge water overboard at sea. Mazarakis then falsified the vessel’s oil record book (ORB) to conceal theillegal discharges from the Coast Guard.

On Oct. 2, 2019, Mazarakis pled guilty to a violation of the APPS for his falsification of the ORB. As part of his guilty plea, Mazarakis also admitted that he took various actions to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation, including destruction of evidence and witness tampering.

The Coast Guard’s investigation also determined that on Dec. 30, 2018, seawater had begun entering the vessel below the waterline through a hole in the vessel’s bilge holding tank. This compromise of the hull’s integrity, and temporary repairs that had been made, constituted a hazardous condition that defendants failed to report to the Coast Guard.

PROBATION

Under the plea agreement, the companies will be placed on a four-year term of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan to ensure, among other things, that ships operated by Chartworld entering the United States fully comply with all applicable national and international marine environmental protection laws. The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor.

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