Portuguese shipping company pleads guilty in US federal court to falsifying “magic pipe” oil discharge records

Image: MarineTraffic.com/Ramon Puig de Llano
Image: MarineTraffic.com/Ramon Puig de Llano – Achilleus

Portuguese shipping company Portline Bulk International has pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and one count of obstruction, the US Department of Justice said in a statement dated June 21.

The charges stem from the falsification of the oil record book onboard Achilleus, a Maltese-flagged ocean-going bulk carrier managed by defendant Portline.

From April 2017 to August 2018, senior members of the vessel’s engineering team oversaw and participated in the bypass of the ship’s oil water separator utilising a yellow plastic hose, referred to as a “magic pipe.”

The ship’s chief engineer made a series of fake entries and key omissions in the oil record book in order to conceal the illegal overboard discharges of oily bilge water. On August 14, 2018, the false oil record book was presented to the US Coast Guard (USCG) during an inspection in the Port of Charleston.

According to court documents, Portline has agreed to pay a criminal fine of US$1.5 million when the company is sentenced at a future date. The company would also be placed on organisational probation for four years, which includes an environmental compliance plan.

On June 17, 2019, Achilleus‘ former chief engineer Anatoli Zotsenko and second engineer Valerii Pastushenko, who had previously pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, were sentenced to fines totaling US$12,500 and three years’ probation. The probation term includes a special condition that bans Zotsenko and Pastushenko from entering ports and anchorages of the United States.

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