US federal court indicts ship management firm, vessel owner, and chief engineer for falsifying pollution records
A federal grand jury in Wilmington, Delaware, has returned a six-count indictment charging Chartworld Shipping Corporation, Nederland Shipping Corporation, and Chief Engineer Vasileios Mazarakis with failing to keep accurate pollution control records, falsifying records, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering, the US Depart of Justice (DoJ) said in a recent statement.
The charges stem from the falsification of records and other acts designed to cover up from the US Coast Guard the overboard discharges of oily mixtures and machinery space bilge water from the Bahamian-flagged cargo ship Nederland Reefer.
According to the indictment, on February 21 of this year, Nederland Reefer entered the Port of Delaware Bay with a false and misleading oil record book available for inspection by the coast guard. The oil record book failed to accurately record transfers and discharges of oily wastewater on the vessel.
Vessel management company Chartworld Shipping Corporation, vessel owner Nederland Shipping Corporation, and Nederland Reefer’s chief engineer, Greek national Vasileios Mazarakis, are all charged with failing to maintain an accurate oil record book as required by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, a US law which implements the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, commonly known as MARPOL.
The defendants were also charged with falsification of records, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering for destroying evidence of the illegal discharges and directing lower level crew members to withhold evidence from the coast guard.
Finally, the corporate defendants are charged with the failure to report a hazardous condition to the coast guard, namely, a breach in the hull of the vessel and resulting incursion of seawater into tanks on board the vessel that occurred before the vessel came to port in Delaware.
An indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law, the DoJ statement clarified.
The case was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and is being prosecuted by the DoJ’s Environmental Crimes Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware.