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March 9, 2009

Guilty plea in pollution case

The U.S. Department of Justice says that Carmelo Oria, a Spanish citizen, who was the Chief Engineer on the Cyprus-flagged M/T Nautilus, pleaded guilty today to using falsified records that concealed improper discharges of oil-contaminated bilge water from the ship, a 26,794 gt chemical tanker owned by Cyprus-based Iceport Shipping Company Ltd., and operated by Spanish-based Consultores de Navegacion S.A. the Justice Department announced.

The investigation began in March 2008, when inspectors from the Coast Guard examined the M/T Nautilus, following the ship's arrival in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and subsequently 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.

Oria served as the Nautilus's Chief Engineer between January and March 2008 and was responsible for all engine room operations. During that time, says the Justice Department, Oria ordered engine room crew members to discharge oil-contaminated bilge fluids from the ship's bilges directly into the ocean. When the M/T Nautilus entered the Port of Boston on March 22, 2008, the ship's log, which Oria was responsible for maintaining, failed to disclose the overboard discharge of oil-contaminated bilge water.

"Carmelo Oria ordered the ship's crewmembers to bypass required environmental controls and pump oil-contaminated water from the ship's bilge directly into the ocean. He then falsified the ship's records in an attempt to conceal his actions," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "As long as individuals and companies continue to bypass this nation's environmental laws, the Justice Department will continue to bring cases and seek justice for those involved."

Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for April 13, 2009.

Oria faces up to 6 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.


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