Nov 2 A German cargo shipper targeted last year
by Somali pirates will pay a $1.2 million penalty and be barred
from U.S. ports for five years as punishment for oil-dumping
violations off the Alaska coast and elsewhere in the open ocean,
U.S. federal officials said on Friday.
Nimmrich & Prahm Bereederung and Nimmrich & Prahm Reederei,
the operator and owner of the Susan K, pleaded guilty on Friday
to obstructing justice and concealing the practice of dumping
oily bilge water at sea, said federal prosecutors in Alaska.
The companies entered their pleas and were sentenced in the
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, in Houston,
where the Alaska and Texas cases were consolidated, Assistant
U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said.
The ship involved in the environmental crimes was hijacked
by Somali pirates last year off the coast of Oman. The ship and
its crew were freed after the owners paid a ransom that one of
the pirates claimed totaled $5.7 million.
The environmental violations occurred after that ordeal,
according to court documents. Oil dumping in Alaska waters took
place sometime between June 2011 and Jan. 27, 2012, the
The Susan K crew involved in the oil-dumping violations was
not the same crew that was taken hostage by the Somali pirates
but a "replacement crew," Feldis said.
That crew, on instructions of the chief engineer, rigged a
bypass hose that dumped oily bilge water directly into the sea
instead of channeling it into an onboard oil-water separator
that is required under federal and international maritime law,
the court documents said.
The chief engineer tried to hide the practice with sham
reports presented to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in Seward,
Alaska, and later in Houston, Feldis said. "The oil-record book
had been intentionally falsified in order to conceal the illegal
dumping of oily bilge at sea," he said.
The chief engineer also lied to the Coast Guard during a
subsequent Houston inspection, Feldis said.
The companies pleaded guilty to a single oil-dumping count
and two obstruction counts, according to court records.
Low-level crew members tipped off prosecutors to the
oil-dumping violations, Feldis said. The three whistleblowers
are entitled to $67,000 each for their actions, he said.
The chief engineer previously pleaded guilty in the case and
was sentenced to a year's probation and a $1,000 fine.
Brian McCarthy, the attorney for the Susan K's owner and its
operator, was not immediately available for comment.
Federal officials in Alaska have prosecuted other shippers
for illegal use of bypass hoses to dump oily bilge water at sea.
Federal and international law requires documentation of
waste practices and discharge of oily waste into approved
onshore treatment facilities, but many shippers seek to cut
costs by ignoring that mandate, Feldis said. "This is a
worldwide problem," he said.
(Reporting by Yareth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by
Bill Rigby and Carol Bishopric)