Egyptian corporation pleads guilty to illegal dumping

SEATTLE – National Navigation Company (NNC), headquartered in Cairo, Egypt, entered pleas of guilty Tuesday to two felonies for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in a failed attempt to conceal illegal discharges of oily sludge directly into the ocean.

NNC was charged after Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency officials in Oregon discovered evidence of illegal discharges of oily sludge and oily bilge water, including falsified documents intended to conceal the illegal discharges from Coast Guard inspectors aboard the motor vessel Wadi Al Arish. Though the two felonies came out of port calls in the State of Washington, the pleas took place in the District of Oregon where similar prosecutions against NNC in both Louisiana and Oregon were combined with the Washington case. Under the terms of the plea agreement, NNC will pay a total monetary penalty of $7.25 million. Of this amount, $350,000 will be paid to the Puget Sound Marine Conservation Fund. The Fund is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for projects to restore and protect fragile marine habitats.

All three cases arose out of the investigation of the NNC owned and managed vessel, Wadi Al Arish. The investigation began November 17, 2007. Further investigative efforts led investigators and prosecutors to discover evidence of similar violations on six other vessels in NNC’s fleet. The pleas entered today in Portland include one felony count in the Eastern District of Louisiana based on port calls there and twelve felony counts in the District of Oregon for port calls in Oregon.

The government’s investigation disclosed widespread illegal conduct. Evidence indicated that illegal discharges of oily sludge and oily bilge waste had occurred onboard Wadi Al Arish since at least 1999 and continued until the government’s investigation in November 2007. Investigators determined that oily sludge was discharged using a bypass hose, connected to an engine room pump and overboard valve – which was then used to discharge waste oil sludge from the ship’s waste oil tank directly into the ocean. Required documentation mandated by federal and international law was falsified to conceal the illegal discharges.

In addition to the $7.25 million criminal fine, NNC has agreed to four years of probation during which it will develop, implement and monitor a Coast Guard approved Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP). The company’s efforts will be overseen by a court appointed monitor who will report directly to the court. The monitor will have complete access to the company’s ships and records. All audit reports prepared under the ECP will be reviewed by the government and the probation office.

“This is the eighth case prosecuted by our office since 2004, in which a foreign flagged vessel calling on ports within our district has been held accountable for violations associated with illegally discharging oily waste directly into the ocean,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “We will aggressively pursue these environmental crimes until the dumping stops.”

“The Coast Guard is our nation’s steward of the marine environment. Acting collaboratively with personnel from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard members from the Pacific Northwest actively identified and relentlessly pursued the investigation of these large-scale violations of international and domestic anti-pollution laws, uncovering a pattern of criminal behavior by a company, whose ships routinely call at U.S. ports, said Rear Admiral John Currier, Commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District. “I sincerely hope that the message to others is clear: the Coast Guard will use all available resources and expertise to identify, investigate, and pursue the prosecution of those who deliberately lie to the U.S. Coast Guard and harm our marine environment.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency/Criminal Investigation Division. The Washington case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle, who leads the U.S. Attorney’s Office Environmental Crimes Working Group, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Todd Mikolop.

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