The Justice Department on Thursday announced a guilty plea in a case involving enforcement of maritime environmental laws.
John Porunnolil Zacharias, chief engineer of the M/V Lowland Sumida, a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, for obstructing a Coast Guard investigation of illegal overboard dumping of oily waste. Zacharias will be sentenced on July 7.
The department said that a ship’s crew member tipped Coast Guard investigators that Zacharias was storing oily waste in a fuel tank before dumping, and had added a dummy sounding tube that showed the tank was empty when it was full. The agency also found he had kept false records of oily discharges.
The announcement came on the same day that the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division published a report touting its accomplishments in prosecuting environmental cases in 2009.
The division said it got guilty pleas in nine cases last year, mostly under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The list includes prosecution of the Cosco Busan case. The ship struck pilings protecting the San Francisco Bay Bridge in November 2007, spilling some 53,000 gallons of fuel. The ship’s captain was sent to jail, and in February the ship’s operator, Hong Kong-based Fleet Management agreed to pay a $10 million fine.
The environment division said it collected $216 million in fines in vessel pollution cases in the past 10 years.
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