Thursday, September 2, 2010

Catching Polluters: Marine Pollution Enforcement—Part 2

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. Read Part I here.

International Outreach and Cooperation
In an effort to strengthen MARPOL compliance internationally, Coast Guard and Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel have presented training sessions on port state control and MARPOL Annex I compliance, focusing on methods of detection, enforcement, investigation, prosecution, the oil record book, and other inspection issues.

Punishing the Perpetrators
Additionally, the Coast Guard and DOJ have received international cooperation in several recent high-profile vessel pollution cases.

In 2007, a maritime operator agreed to a $37 million criminal settlement—the largest to date involving deliberate vessel pollution, 12 of its vessels in six separate U.S. ports.

The investigation was based upon a tip from Transport Canada, after an investigation into a mystery oil spill revealed suspicious entries in the vessel’s oil record book. The information was sent to the Coast Guard and resulted in a case that spread to six different ports.

Later in the investigation, Transport Canada provided aerial images of another of the operator’s vessels potentially engaged in illegal discharges.

In another incident, a maritime operator was convicted of 13 counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, three counts of falsifying records, one count of conspiracy, and one count of obstruction of justice. The operator was fined $4.9 million for its role in falsifying records to conceal overboard dumping of oily waste in international waters and efforts to conceal those discharges from the Coast Guard. (The operator is appealing this conviction.)

During the prosecution of this case, the Netherlands Royal Military Police, Ministry of Transport, and Coast Guard provided assistance. Netherlands government officials were able to provide aerial surveillance images of a vessel discharging oily waste within the Netherlands’ exclusive economic zone and testified to the same at trial.

Keep it Clean
Without the fear of discovery and prosecution, polluters have no incentive to change their illegal and destructive ways. The U.S. Coast Guard, through its international training and outreach efforts, seeks to ensure that all port states can detect and prosecute violations of MARPOL, forcing polluters to take corrective action.

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