BOSTON (CN) - A Spanish shipping company agreed Monday in Federal Court to pay a $2.5 million fine for dumping oil-contaminated bilge water into the ocean, after an inspection at St. Croix in the Virgin Islands found a metal pipe used to bypass an oil-water separator as well as a set of falsified logs aboard the M/T Nautilus.
Senior engineers aboard the ship directed subordinate engine crew members to bypass the ship's oil-water separator and to instead dump the oily water directly overboard, according to the guilty plea by the ship's operator, Consultores De Navegacion
The engine rooms on a big ship generates waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of such polluted water without treatment by a separator.
Federal law also requires that the bilge water discharges be recorded in an oil book that can be inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard within the internal waters of the nation.
Prosecutors said engineers on the Nautilus directed subordinate engine room crew members to use a metal pipe to bypass the ship's oil water separator and send the waste water directly overboard.
The U.S. Coast Guard first boarded the ship following its arrival in St. Croix, and again in the Port of Boston.
"The inspections uncovered evidence that crewmembers aboard the ship had improperly handled and disposed of the ship's oil-contaminated bilge water and falsified entries in the ship's official oil record book to conceal these activities," said Department of Justice officials in a written statement.
The operator pleaded guilty to conspiracy, falsifying records, obstruction, and violating laws that required it to keep accurate record books for the chemical tanker Nautilus. The charges against the owner of the ship, Cyprus-based Iceport Shipping Co., have been dismissed.
In August 2007, Vadym Tumakov, a Ukrainian who, at that time, served as chief engineer directed the discharge of pollution overboard, according to the guilty pleas. In February 2008, Carmelo Oria, a Spanish citizen and also a chief engineer, directed crew members to dump waste directly overboard from the ship's bilge wells.
Both men have pleaded guilty to falsifying records and are scheduled to be sentenced this month.
U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock of Massachusetts presided over the case. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda M. Ricci.
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