An Italian shipping firm, Carbofin S.P.A. ("Carbofin"), pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships by falsifying ships' documents in order to conceal the illegal discharge of oil‐contaminated waste, following prosecution by the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard last month in United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The investigation began in April of 2014, when the M/T Marigola, a commercial liquefied gas vessel, called on the Port of Tampa to unload its cargo. U.S. Coast Guard inspectors boarded the ship to conduct a Port State Control examination, and obtained from crewmembers mobile phone video footage showing a hose connected between two points in the ship's engine room. Upon further investigation, the inspectors determined that the hose had been used on multiple occasions to discharge oily engine room waste ‐ such as sludge, waste oil, and machinery space bilge water ‐ directly into the sea. Crewmembers also reported to the investigators that the vessel's Chief Engineer directed them to discharge the waste while in international waters, under the cover of darkness. None of these discharges were recorded in the ship's oil record book, which was maintained by the Chief Engineer.
While oily engine room waste is regularly produced in the normal course of ship operation, and the disposal of this waste is highly regulated, all disposals and transfers of such waste, whether through incineration, processing through onboard oil water separators, or disposal to a barge or other shore‐ based facility, must be recorded in a vessel's oil record book. As such, under the terms of the plea agreement, Carbofin is obligated to pay a $2.75 million criminal penalty, $600,000 of which will be used to support the protection and preservation of natural resources located in and around the Florida National Keys Marine Sanctuary.