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Shipping firms to pay $1.8 million fine for troubled reefer ship

A U.S. Coast Guard investigation in February discovered the Nederland Reefer’s chief engineer had devised a scheme to illegally dump oily bilge into the sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard earlier this year discovered that the Nederland Reefer illegally dumped oily bilge water into the sea. [Photo Credit: Jerry Spillett]

The U.S. Justice Department said Nederland Shipping Co. and Chartworld Shipping Co. pleaded guilty in a federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Oct. 15 to illegally dumping oily bilge overboard and concealing the hazardous condition of its refrigerated vessel from the Coast Guard. 

The companies agreed to pay a $1.8 million criminal fine and will be subject to a four-year probation that includes a comprehensive environmental compliance plan for Chartworld’s ships. The compliance plan will be implemented by an independent auditing company and supervised by a court-appointed monitor, the Justice Department said.

The two shipping companies, which are incorporated in Liberia, own and operate the 3,049-gross-ton Nederland Reefer. The vessel carries refrigerated containers. 

Coast Guard officials boarded the Nederland Reefer at Lewes, Del., on Feb. 21 to conduct a port state control exam. The agency discovered that the ship’s chief engineer, Vasileios Mazarakis, had been “repeatedly tricking” the oily water separator’s oil content monitor with fresh water to allow the discharge of untreated oily bilge into the sea, the Justice Department said. 

To hide the oily bilge discharges from the Coast Guard, Mazarakis falsified the vessel’s oil record book, a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. He also allegedly destroyed evidence and tampered with witnesses. Mazarakis pleaded guilty to the charges on Oct. 2.

The Coast Guard’s investigation of the Nederland Reefer also determined that on Dec. 30, 2018, seawater began entering the vessel below the waterline through a hole in the bilge tank. The companies failed to report the ship’s hazardous condition to the Coast Guard.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.