Jail term for magic pipe case chief engineer

AUGUST 16, 2012 — An Italian headquartered shipping company and the chief engineer of one of its ships were sentenced yesterday in federal court in Mobile, Ala., for deliberately falsifying records to conceal discharges of oily wastewater from the ship directly into the sea.

Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade in the Southern District of Alabama to pay a $1 million criminal fine, serve four years of probation, and make a $300,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also fund and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan during the term of probation.

Judge Granade sentenced Chief Engineer Vito La Forgia to one month in jail.

Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company S.P.A., the owner and operator of the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger, pleaded guilty on July 11, 2012, to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law.

Mr. La Forgia, the ship's chief engineer, pleaded guilty on July 12, 2012, to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

According to papers filed in court, between Dec. 19, 2011, and Jan. 25, 2012, Mr. La Forgia and other senior Bottiglieri Shipping Company employees discharged oily bilge waste from the M/V Bottiglieri Challenger on multiple occasions as the vessel sailed from Singapore to Brazil and then from Brazil to Mobile.

The vessel arrived in the Port of Mobile on Jan. 25, 2012, and underwent a Coast Guard inspection. Based on information provided to the Coast Guard by engine department crewmembers and evidence discovered during the Coast Guard's inspection, it was evident that there were internal transfers and discharges of oily waste into the ocean that were not recorded in the vessel's oil record book as required.

The deliberate overboard discharges of oily waste were accomplished through the use of a "magic pipe" that connected the ship's purifier sludge tank with the ship's bilge holding tank, the contents of which were then pumped overboard without first being processed through required pollution prevention control equipment designed to detect and prevent discharges containing more than 15 parts per million oil.

"The U.S. relies on vessel crews and their management companies to provide accurate logs and records when calling on U.S. ports to ensure oily wastes are discharged properly at sea," said Kenyen Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. "The U.S. is fully committed to prosecuting those cases where vessels cover-up improper oily waste discharges at sea through the use of falsified logs. Our aim is twofold, to preserve our natural resources for future generations, and second, to clean up a corrupt corporate culture that would place greed above all else. I am also pleased that my office was able to play a role in securing another $300,000 for waterway preservation and conservation projects in the Mobile Bay and throughout the Southern District of Alabama. This prosecution would not have been possible without the hard work of the U.S. Coast Guard at Sector Mobile and District Eight, Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service, the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section."