Greek Shipping Companies to Pay $1.5m in Pollution Case

MV Gallia Graeca discharged oily waste on a trip from China to Seattle, giving false log books to Coast Guard Inspectors, a US court has found.

US District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle, Washington has fined ship operator, Angelakos (Hellas) SA, ship owner Gallia Graeca Shipping Ltd $1.3m for dumping of oily waste at sea.

The owner and operator were found guilty in June of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, Falsification of Records in a Federal Investigation and engaging in a Scheme to Defraud the United States.

The judge also ordered a $200,000 community service payment to be shared between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Parks Foundation.

MV Gallia Graeca travelled from China to Seattle in October 2015 with an inoperable oily water separator. On three separate occasions during the voyage 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water were discharged overboard. The operator then attempted to conceal this from the US Coast Guard by making false statements to inspectors and making false statements and omissions in the ship’s oil record book.

When Coast Guard inspectors asked the engineers to operate the oil water separator during the inspection, the engineers did so in such a way that the equipment appeared to be working properly, even though it was not.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) stated that “when Coast Guard inspectors examined the oil water separator they found its filters were clogged with oil and found oil residue in the overboard discharge piping. Records indicated the oil water separator had not been serviced for months prior to the voyage from China. The defendants presented the Coast Guard with an official oil record book stating that bilge water had not been discharged during the voyage to Seattle. However, the Coast Guard investigation discovered evidence that oily water had been discharged into the sea three times on its voyage from China.”

The DoJ also noted that the owners and operators had a contract to move $25m worth of goods out of Seattle. Keeping the vessel on schedule was therefore of financial significance.

The companies were all placed on five years’ probation and required to have environmental compliance plans in place which will ensure that they are abiding by anti-pollution policies and regulations.

The two engineers who operated the ship’s equipment and falsified the log books were sentenced to short prison terms before returning to Greece.

Cyprus-flagged Gallia Graeca apparently covered by North P&I via Member Gallia Graeca Shipping Ltd.