Chief Engineer of U.S. Ship Pleads Guilty in “Magic Pipe” Case

I posted a link to this story in another post this morning, but, as tis story unravels, I think it would be a good idea to follow it as the various parties plead out, and get sentenced.<br><br>From sources in the know, DOJ is still looking at the respective Masters in this case, as they countersigned the Oil Record Book in each instance.<br><br><br><br><br><img src=“” alt="Department of Justice Seal]<br><img src=“” alt="Department of Justice]
<hr noshade="noshade]<div style="float: left; width: 45%; text-align: left; font-weight: bold;]FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE<br>THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2008<br><span class="prurl]WWW.USDOJ.GOV</span></div>
<div style="text-align: right; font-weight: bold;]ENRD<br>(202) 514-2007<br>TDD (202) 514-1888</div>
<h1 class="prtitle]Chief Engineer of U.S. Ship Pleads Guilty to Concealing Deliberate Pollution in “Magic Pipe” Case</h1>
WASHINGTON – The former chief engineer of an American-flagged car-carrier
pleaded guilty today to criminal charges related to the deliberate discharge of
oil-contaminated bilge waste through a “magic pipe” that bypassed required
pollution prevention equipment, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney
General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division
and Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
Patrick Brown, the former chief engineer of the M/V Fidelio, renamed the M/V
Patriot, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson to
conspiracy and making a false statement in a ship’s Oil Record Book. Brown was
employed by Pacific Gulf Marine Inc. (PGM), a vessel operator based in Gretna,
La., that previously pleaded guilty to its role in deliberately discharging
hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil-contaminated bilge waste from four of
its giant car-carrier ships, including the Fidelio.

PGM was sentenced on Jan. 24, 2007, to pay $1 million in criminal fines and
$500,000 in community service, and serve three years of probation under the
terms of an environmental compliance plan that includes audits by an outside
firm that, in turn, are reviewed by a court-appointed monitor.
“The defendant was involved in the deliberate overboard discharge of
oil-contaminated bilge waste into the ocean for multiple years and lied to the
Coast Guard to cover up his illegal actions. Corporations and crews should
beware that polluting and lying to the authorities will be prosecuted to the
full extent of the law,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General of
the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

U.S. Attorney Rosenstein said, “The convictions in this case should send a
powerful message about our commitment to prosecute anyone who damages the
environment by bypassing pollution controls and intentionally discharging oil
into the seas.”

In a factual statement filed with the Court, Brown admitted that he used a
bypass pipe to make deliberate overboard discharges of oil-contaminated bilge
waste from 1994, when he began working as a Chief Engineer on the Fidelio under
a prior management company, through March 2003, when the Coast Guard discovered
the bypass pipe during an inspection of the ship in Baltimore. During the Coast
Guard inspection on March 29, 2003, inspectors lifted a deck plate and found a
permanently installed bypass pipe on the Fidelio that was part of the ship’s
original construction.
“The U.S. Coast Guard continues to uncover deceptive tactics being employed by
those in the maritime industry who are disregarding U.S. and international
environmental laws by intentionally discharging oil and hazardous substances
into our oceans. Uncovering illegal operations such as this one and bringing
the perpetrators to justice requires a coordinated effort,” said Captain David
Lersch, Chief, Prevention Division, Fifth Coast Guard District. “Protecting the
environment is a mission we fully embrace and will continue to perform with
vigor and compassion.”

“EPA will not tolerate the intentional discharging of oil contaminated water
into the seas,” said David Dillon, Special Agent in Charge for EPA Criminal
Investigation Division’s Philadelphia Area Office. “Today’s guilty plea should
serve as a warning that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who
intentionally mislead the government about environmental crimes.”
The Coast Guard directed the removal of the bypass pipe—referred to by some in
the maritime industry as a “magic pipe”—and found that it was filled with black
oil. The ship’s Oil Record Book, a required log in which all overboard
discharges must be recorded, had been falsified to conceal illegal discharges
made without the use of an oily water separator, a required pollution prevention
device that Brown admitted was “rarely if ever used” except for demonstrating
its functions during Coast Guard inspections.

Brown is the fifth chief engineer to plead guilty or be convicted by a jury in
the continuing investigation. Deniz Sharpe, who served as chief engineer of the
M/V Fidelio after Brown, pleaded guilty on March 7, 2007, to violating the Act
to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) involving continuing illegal conduct
after the Coast Guard had removed the bypass pipe from the ship. Frank Coe,
also a chief engineer of the M/V Fidelio, pleaded guilty on May 1, 2007.
Stephen Karas, a former chief engineer of the M/V Tanabata, renamed the M/V
Resolve, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements on March 29,
2007. Mark Humphries, also a former chief engineer of the M/V Tanabata, was
convicted by a jury on Oct. 16, 2007, for conspiring to violate four different
laws including making illegal discharges of bilge waste, in violation of the
APPS; failing to fully maintain an oil record book, in violation of the APPS;
making and using materially false documents; and obstruction of agency
proceedings. The jury also found Humphries guilty on two counts of making
materially false statements to the Coast Guard in 2002 and 2003. Humphries was
sentenced to six months in prison.
Engine room operations on board large ocean-going vessels generate large amounts
of waste oil and oil-contaminated bilge waste. International and U.S. law
prohibit the discharge of waste containing more than 15 parts per million oil
and without treatment by an oil water separator and oil sensing equipment. The
regime, established by the MARPOL Convention (Annex I)—a treaty signed by more
than 135 countries representing approximately 97.5 percent of the world’s
commercial tonnage and implemented into U.S. law by the APPS—also requires that
overboard discharges be recorded in an oil record book.

This investigation was conducted by the Chesapeake Regional Office of the Coast
Guard Investigative Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division.
Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, U.S.
Coast Guard Activities Europe, U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District Legal Office,
Coast Guard Office of International and Maritime Law, and Coast Guard
Headquarters Office of Investigations and Analysis. The case is being prosecuted
by the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
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