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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

$2.4 Million in Fines for Polluting Ocean

BALTIMORE (CN) - A Greek shipping company and a Danish ship owner were each fined $1.2 million for dumping waste oil and plastic garbage into the ocean and obstructing justice, federal prosecutors said.

Efploia Shipping Co., a Marshall Islands corporation based in Greece, operated the ship Aquarosa, which was built in China and registered in Malta. Aquarosa Shipping, of Denmark, owned the 33,005-ton cargo ship.

Both corporations pleased guilty to four felony counts: obstruction of justice and making material false statements, and environmental crimes, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Each company was fined $1.2 million. Of that, $275,000 will go to National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, for projects in Chesapeake Bay.

Senior ship engineers started dumping oil-contaminated bilge waste on the ship's very first voyage after it was completed in June 2010 in China, prosecutors said.

The investigation began when a junior engineer tipped off the U.S. Coast Guard in Baltimore last year. He provided the Coast Guard with 300 cell-phone photos of the illegal dumping.

The ship's Chief Engineer Andreas Konstantinidis is in jail for his role in the dumping. He pleaded guilty in December to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 3 months in prison.

At last week's hearing, prosecutors asked the court to issue an award to the junior engineer who provided the tip. The court did not rule on the request.

The Baltimore Sun reported that an Efploia attorney said the junior engineer does not deserve a reward because he should have alerted company officials, who would have corrected the problems. The attorney, Gregory Listin, said a reward would send a message to other seamen that whistleblowing can be lucrative.

"They can snap their pictures and take their notes knowing that when they get to Baltimore or another U.S. port they can turn it over and earn the equivalent of 33 years' salary," Listin told the Sun. "Eight months on board and 96 days in port and [the junior engineer] said not a single word until he got to the cash register."

But the federal prosecutor, Richard Udell, told the Sun that the whistleblower paid a price for doing the right thing. He said the junior engineer has been unable to find work since he returned to the Philippines in November. Everyone else on the Aquarosa has signed on to other ships, Udell said.

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