Fourth Circuit Affirms Conviction And Sentencing Of Vessel Owner And Operator For Violations Of APPS

Author:Mr Matthew Johnston
Profession:Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP

On May 7, 2018, the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Oceanic Illsabe Limited affirmed the conviction and sentencing of a vessel owner and operator for violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).

Appellants, the owner and operator of the M/V OCEAN HOPE (a Greek oceangoing cargo ship), were convicted of offenses related to illegal discharges of large quantities of oily pollutants from the vessel into the ocean. Appellants violated the APPS which was created to comply with MARPOL. The Act provides that foreign ships in the navigable waters of U.S. are subject to federal discharge requirements, and the Coast Guard can assert jurisdiction outside of the U.S. when a foreign ship fails to make complete and accurate entries in the Ship's Oil Record Book, which must be updated "without delay."

M/V OCEAN HOPE's Engine Department was principally responsible for violating APPS, and also made false statements to the Coast Guard, obstructed justice and tampered with witnesses. The case involved pumping unprocessed bilge water into the ocean and the use of a "magic pipe" - a hose between the vessel's sludge pump and an illegal onboard discharge valve on the storage tank, which ultimately draws the sludge into the ocean. One of the Engine Department's crew videotaped and photographed the "magic pipe" arrangement.

The MV OCEAN HOPE's owner and operator asserted that they were not vicariously criminally liable for any of the violations revealed by the Coast Guard, and that it was all the Engine Department crewmembers' fault. They said that they had hired qualified crew that could reasonably be relied upon and the misconduct was unknown to owner and operator. However, the owner and operator were convicted on nine counts. The appellate court...

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