A Greek shipping company has agreed to pay a $1 million fine after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Part of the fee will be used for environmental restoration projects in the Columbia River estuary and along the Oregon and Washington coasts.
The company, Calypso Marine, entered its plea in Tacoma, Wash., earlier this week. A Coast Guard team had conducted a routine boarding on the bulk carrier Tina M when it was anchored in the lower Columbia at Kalama, Wash., in May. During the safety and security examination, Portland-based USCG inspectors requested to see the 35,000-ton ship's oil records, which log the disposal of fuel and oily waste.
With the help of whistleblowers in the ship's engineering department, officials then discovered hidden pipes that allowed the vessel to bypass approved disposal procedures and pump pollution straight into the ocean during overseas transits, the Coast Guard said. International law requires ships to use environmentally sound disposal methods.
Of the $1 million fine paid by Calypso Marine, $400,000 will go to the Columbia River Estuarine Coastal Fund, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to protect fragile habitats in the river and along the coast.
This case is not unusual to Coast Guard Sector Portland. Last year, a similar case involving a vessel moored in Vancouver, Wash., yielded a criminal fine of $750,000. Since 2003, Sector Portland's investigations of criminal dumping have led to seven convictions and more than $9 million in fines, plus more than 11 years of probation for responsible crews.
In most cases, a portion of the levied fine was set aside for environmental conservancies, the Coast Guard said.
"While the illegal activities taken by Calypso Marine are deplorable, we are pleased that a sizable portion of the fine will help fund projects in the lower Columbia River," said Dale Jensen, who oversees statewide spill prevention, preparedness and response activities for the Washington Department of Ecology. "We look forward to working with our federal, state and tribal partners to help protect and restore our environment."
The Tina M's chief engineer, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the Coast Guard, is scheduled for sentencing next week.