Nikolaos Vastardis, Evridiki Navigation Inc., and Liquimar Tankers Management Services Inc., are guilty of concealing deliberate pollution and obstruction of justice.
The oil tanker owner, operator and chief engineer were found guilty of violating the act to prevent pollution from ships, falsifying ship’s documents, obstructing a U.S. Coast Guard inspection, and making false statements to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors.
The crimes were committed in order to conceal Vastardis’ deliberate bypassing of required pollution prevention equipment in order to illegally discharge oil-contaminated bilge waste overboard from the foreign-flagged oil tanker Motor Tanker (M/T) Evridiki.
“This case demonstrates that those who pollute our oceans and deliberately mislead Coast Guard officials will be brought to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The M/T Evridiki is an 899 foot Liberian-flagged oil tanker owned by Evridiki Navigation and operated by Liqumar Tankers Management Services. Vastardis was the chief engineer of the M/T Evridiki.
On March 10, 2019, the ship arrived in the Big Stone Anchorage, within Delaware Bay, Delaware, to deliver a cargo of crude oil. The following day, the ship underwent a U.S. Coast Guard inspection to determine, among other things, the vessel’s compliance with international environmental pollution prevention requirements.
The jury found that during the inspection, Evridiki, Liquimar, and Vastardis tried to deceive Coast Guard inspectors regarding the use of the ship’s oily water separator (OWS), a required pollution prevention device.
Under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), an international treaty to which the U.S. is a party, only bilge waste containing less than 15 parts per million (ppm) oil can be discharged overboard and must be first run through an OWS and oil content meter (OCM) to ensure no waste containing more than 15 ppm oil is discharged. During the Coast Guard inspection, Vastardis operated the equipment with unmonitored valves that trapped fresh water inside the OCM’s sample line so its oil sensor registered zero ppm instead of what was really being discharged overboard, court records showed.
However, historic OCM data recovered during the inspection proved the OCM was being tricked and bypassed. When the Coast Guard opened the Evridiki’s OWS, they found it was fouled with copious amounts of oil and soot, court documents showed.
Each defendant was convicted of all four felony counts including knowingly failing to maintain an accurate oil record book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships; obstruction of justice; obstruction of the Coast Guard’s inspection, and making a materially false statement to the Coast Guard concerning how the OWS was operated at sea.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Andrews will conduct sentencing at a later date.