The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas reports that Chandris, the operator of the the 158, 519 dwt Suezmax tanker M/V Sestrea, which made calls in multiple ports in Texas, pleaded guilty to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law, as well as a violation of making a false statement for making a false entry in the ship’s oil record book.
Shortly following the plea, U.S. District Judge Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the company to pay an $800,000 criminal fine along with a $200,000 community service payment to the congressionally-established National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The money will be designated for use in the Flower Garden and Stetson Banks National Marine Sanctuary, headquartered in Galveston, to support the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources located in and adjacent to the sanctuary.
Chandris was also sentenced to three years probation. As a condition of the probation, all ships Chandris manages and that are involved in transporting crude oil will be forced to comply with an Environmental Compliance Plan.
According to a joint factual statement, on or about Dec. 18, 2014, the chief engineering officer on board the M/V Sestrea acting on behalf of Chandris used a hose to pump fresh water through the Oil Content Meter. Because of this, the meter was “tricked” into sensing that all of the oily bilge water being run through the Oil Water Separator within normal limits.
As a result, the system discharged oily water in excess of 15 parts per million overboard into the sea.
According to court documents, the chief engineer knowingly failed to make the required entries into the oil record book including the fact that oily waste had been discharged directly into the sea. The chief engineer also made false entries in the oil record book to conceal the fact that the pollution control equipment had not been used. The crew members then attempted to conceal the discharge on Dec. 18, 2014, during a Coast Guard boarding at the port in Corpus Christi by providing the falsified oil record book to the boarding crew.
The investigation was conducted by the Coast Guard – Corpus Christi Sector and the Coast Guard Investigative Service in Corpus Christi.