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November 18, 2005

$1 million fine for waste oil discharge

Karlog Shipping Company Ltd. (Karlog Shipping)--operator of a fleet of cargo freighters based in Piraeus, Greece--pleaded guilty to making false statements and obstructing justice in connection with the overboard discharge of waste oil ugh a hidden bypass pipe on the M/V Friendship, a Greek-registered cargo ship, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, Karlog Shipping was ordered to pay a $1 million fine, to develop a comprehensive court-monitored environmental management system, and to serve three years of probation.

The comprehensive environmental management system will be a fleet-wide program designed to ensure that the company properly supervises all of its vessels, preventing future illegal discharges and ensuring that vessels are in compliance with environmental laws moving forward.

"Today's guilty pleas are evidence of the Justice Department's commitment to ensuring that crimes that harm our environment will not go unpunished," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson. "Companies like Karlog, which knowingly pollute our oceans and then intentionally lie to cover their actions, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The government's investigation began in November 2004 after the Coast Guard discovered evidence of the bypassing during a routine inspection of the M/V Friendship in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, New York.

Panagiotis Kokkinos, the ship's Chief Engineer, and Athanasios Chalkias, the ship's Fitter, have also both pleaded guilty in connection with their role in ordering crew members to make false statements to the Coast Guard regarding discharges of oil from the ship.

Both Kokkinos and Chalkias were sentenced to 30 days incarceration and three years of probation on October 6, 2005.

According to documents filed in court, Karlog Shipping discharged oil contaminated bilge waste overboard through the bypass equipment and without the use of the oil water separator. The pollution was then concealed by maintaining a false oil record book that made it appear that the ship was being operated properly.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/V Friendship generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an oil water separator-a required pollution prevention device. Law also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard. The waste oil may be burned on board through the use of an incinerator or offloaded onto barges or shore side facilities for disposal.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service and the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York and the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section. The case was initiated by the Marine Inspectors and Marine Investigators from Coast Guard Sector New York.

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