Multi-million dollar fines in US for “ocean outlaws”

US District Court Judge Richard G. Andrews for the District of Delaware last week fined Athens-based Liquimar Tankers Management Services Inc and Evridiki Navigation Inc a combined $3m in criminal fines, with a five-year period of probation. Evridiki was fined $2m, while Liquimar was fined $1m. Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Todd Kim described them as “ocean outlaws”.

The two businesses were convicted at trial on all charges, including violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, falsifying ships’ documents, obstructing a US Coast Guard inspection and making false statements to US Coast Guard inspectors.

Kim said that “ocean outlaws and polluters such as these will continue to be vigorously prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Kim is AAG for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The DOJ said that in March 2019 crude oil tanker Evridiki (IMO 9318137) was inspected by the US CG in Big Stone Anchorage within Delaware Bay after a delivery of crude oil. The jury found that during the inspection, Liquimar, Evridiki and the ship’s Chief Engineer, Nikolaos Vastardis, tried to deceive Coast Guard inspectors regarding the use of the ship’s oily water separator (OWS) and oil content meter (OCM) (IMN, May 23rd 2019).

Chief Engineer Vastardis used a hidden valve to trap fresh water inside the sample line so that the OCM sensor registered zero parts per million concentration of oil instead of what was really being discharged overboard. The Coast Guard and government experts were able to prove that the OCM was being tricked with fresh water by analyzing historic data recovered from the machine’s memory chip. When the Coast Guard opened the OWS, they found it was inoperable and fouled with copious amounts of oil and soot. Vastardis’ conviction was upheld in December 2021 by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected a challenge to US jurisdiction over foreign vessels.

At last week’s sentencing the US government provided new evidence, based on a forensic examination of the ship’s computers, that Liquimar had also made and used fake and forged certificates regarding safety and environmental requirements.

Fake certificates and fake seals, to imprint on the certificates, were e-mailed to the ship by senior shore side employees. including the Designated Person Ashore. The DPA is a required manager under international law who is charged with ensuring the vessel and its crew abide by the law.

At least three senior employees of Liquimar were involved with creating and sending the fake certificates, the DOJ said. The fake certificates related to the calibration of the OCM and whether pressure relief valves for the cargo were actually tested properly. A fake OCM certificate was used during the USCG inspection and Vastardis was specifically asked about the validity of the certificate.

The Coast Guard further discovered that the data stored on the OCM indicated the OCM was not energized on the date that the fake certificate claimed the OCM was calibrated. In addition, the certificate for the pressure relief valves was noted to be false because it had claimed that the system was tested on a date that the cargo tanks were full, which is impossible.

In 2019, 2007-built, Liberia-flagged 84,796 gt Evridiki, owned by Evridiki Navigation Inc care of Liquimar Tankers management Services of Athens, Greece, was entered with London Club on behalf of Evridiki Navigation Co. Claims leader for loss of hire was Gard AS on behalf of Dioryx Maritime Corp. Claims leader for H&M was Swedish Club on behalf of Liquimar Tankers Management Inc, with Gard having a subscription position. In 2022 the Liberia-flagged vessel was entered with Swedish Club (inception February 20th 2022) (Piraeus Team) on behalf of Evridiki Navigation Inc. As of May 7th the vessel was underway from Valletta, Malta, to Fujairah, UAE, ETA May 10th