A crew member told the US Coast Guard that a Dubai-controlled MR tanker was dumping waste oil, landing the owner with a likely $2m fine.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said two companies, Prive Overseas Marine of Dubai and Prive Shipping Denizcilik Ticaret of Turkey, pleaded guilty to pollution offences relating to the 51,000-dwt PS Dream (built 2009).

They had been charged with conspiracy, knowingly violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and obstruction of justice related to the falsification of the tanker’s oil record book.

The guilty pleas were entered in federal court in New Orleans before chief US District Court judge Nannette Jolivette Brown.

If the court approves a plea agreement, the companies will be fined $2m and serve four years of probation.

The court also has authority to award up to $500,000, half of the APPS portion of the fine, to the whistleblowers that provided evidence leading to conviction.

Separate charges have been filed against Captain Abdurrahman Korkmaz, a Turkish national.

He has been accused of a violation of APPS and obstructing the inspection of the ship.

The criminal case stems from the report of a crew member who contacted the Coast Guard on 11 January last year, while the ship was heading to New Orleans.

The seafarer shared a video showing oil being pumped overboard and trailing behind the tanker.

Orders from the master

When the vessel arrived in New Orleans two weeks later, “this individual and another crew member blew the whistle and provided evidence to the Coast Guard”, the DoJ said.

Video and photographic images were filed in court.

According to court documents, the ship’s master ordered crew members to pump oily waste overboard from the residual oil tank.

A portable pump placed inside the tank and connected to a long flexible hose was used to discharge directly into the ocean, without any required pollution prevention equipment or monitoring.

The waste oil, including sludge, originated in the engine room and had been improperly transferred into the residual oil tank on the deck of the ship by a prior crew.

“Senior managers at Prive Shipping were aware that the oil-contaminated waste remained in the tank and were informed by the ship’s master that it had been dumped overboard,” the DoJ said.

“This case involved deceit and wilful pollution, and this prosecution is intended to hold both the corporations and individuals accountable,” US Attorney Duane Evans added.

“Criminal prosecutions are needed to deter deliberate efforts to circumvent our nation’s anti-pollution laws. Importantly, $500,000 of the criminal penalty will go toward environmental protection of the marine environment in our area,” he added.

Captain Greg Callaghan, deputy commander of the Coast Guard in New Orleans, said: “The Coast Guard and our partners remain steadfast in our shared commitment to safeguarding our waters and holding accountable those who threaten our marine ecosystems.”

“We encourage individuals to continue reporting any suspicious activities, as each report plays a crucial role in protecting the marine environment,” he added.

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