Money from fined cargo company helps Chesapeake Bay

BALTIMORE - Captain Mark P. Oâ??Malley, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, gives his remarks during a press conference held shortly after U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Irika Shipping S.A., to pay $4 million in penalties for deliberately discharging oil and waste into the ocean, Sept. 21, 2010. The motor vessel Iorana, a Greek flagged cargo ship responsible for the crime, was inspected Jan. 8, 2010, by Coast Guard investigators after a whistleblower had told authorizes that the ship had illegally discarded oil and waste into the ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell.On April 22, 2011, during Earth Month, millions of environmentally conscious volunteers did their part in the celebration of Earth Day by taking a day off work to help clean up the environment. Earth Day is a day that is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. While this first Earth Day was focused on the United States, it is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.

In the Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas, there are a variety of Earth Day activities that includes cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Chesapeake holds the title as the largest estuary in the United States, but it also holds the less desirable title of being one of the most polluted bodies of water. Fortunately, it will be receiving $750,000 for cleaning and restoration projects through a $4 million judgment against a ship serial polluter that was covering up the deliberate discharge of oil and plastics.

According to court documents, the investigation into the motor vessel Iorana was launched in January 2010 after a crew member passed a note to a Customs and Border Protection inspector upon the ship’s arrival in Baltimore alleging that the ship’s chief engineer had directed the dumping of waste oil overboard through a bypass hose that circumvented pollution prevention equipment required by law. The whistleblower’s note stated: “We are asking help to any authorities concerned about this, because we must protect our environment and our marine lives.”

During a Coast Guard inspection on Jan. 8, 2010, the Coast Guard obtained photographs and video taken on the whistleblower crew member’s cell phone. It showed the use of a 103-foot long “magic hose” to bypass the ship’s oily water separator. The illicit bypass system used to discharge oily waste, including sludge, was routed through the ship’s boiler blow down system where any trace of oil could be expected to be steam cleaned away. The illegal discharges were concealed in a fraudulent oil record book, a required log in which all overboard discharges are to be recorded.

Irika Shipping, the Iorana’s managing company, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to two counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to maintain an accurate oil record book and garbage record book; one count of obstruction of the Coast Guard’s inspection; three counts of concealing evidence; one count of making materially false statements; and one count of obstruction of justice. The maximum penalty for each of these felony offenses is $500,000 or up to twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Of the $4,000,000 judgment, $750,000 of the criminal penalty will go to the congressionally established National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and be used for Chesapeake Bay projects. In Washington, $125,000 will go to environmental projects in and around the waters of Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan De Fuca. In Louisiana, $125,000 will go toward funding habitat conservation, protection, restoration and management projects to benefit fish and wildlife resources and habitats.

This prosecution was made possible through the combined efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Coast Guard 5th District Legal Office, Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law, Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis, Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division with assistance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The cases were prosecuted by Richard A. Udell, Senior Trial Attorney of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, P. Michael Cunningham, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Baltimore, James Oesterle, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Seattle, and Dorothy Manning Taylor, Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Orleans.

To view the original story of the M/V Iorana prosecution, please click here.


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