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Federal court fines two international shipping companies for pollution

A federal court in Texas has fined two shipping companies $1.9 million for covering up vessel pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

   A federal court in Beaumont, Texas has levied fines against two international shipping companies totaling $1.9 million after the firms pleaded guilty Tuesday to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and obstruction of justice, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
   The court found that Egyptian Tanker Company of Egypt and Singapore’s Thome Ship Management illegally dumped oil-contaminated bilge water and garbage off the coast of eastern Texas and then attempted to conceal their behavior.
   In addition to the $1.9 million dollar penalty, the ruling requires marine and coastal restoration efforts at three National Wildlife Refuges located on the Gulf of Mexico.
   Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston for the Eastern District of Texas announced the plea agreement.
   The initial investigation began in April of last year when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Port Arthur, Texas received information from a crew member that the 809-foot oil tanker ETC MENA, owned and operated by Egyptian Tanker and Thome, respectively, had illegally dumped bilge waste overboard into the ocean, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
   The crew member provided a written statement, photographs, and video of the allegations, which were found to be accurate once an investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard that same day.
   “This case involved egregious violations of U.S. and international laws that are key to protecting the oceans from pollution, and deliberate efforts to mislead U.S. Coast Guard officials about these criminal acts,” said Wood. “The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively prosecute criminal acts that pollute the oceans.”
   “Intentional acts of pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas wetlands will not be tolerated, and violators such as defendants, Egyptian Tanker Company and Thome Ship Management, will be held responsible for their conduct,” added Featherston. “Our citizens depend on clean water for their recreation and their livelihood. This kind of irresponsible conduct threatens both.”
   As such, the companies will be placed on a four-year term of probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan to ensure, among other things, that all of ships operated by Thome Ship Management that come to the United States fully comply with all applicable marine environmental protection requirements established by national and international laws, DOJ said.
   The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor.