Avin International LTD and Nicos I.V. Special Maritime Enterprises, two Greek shipping companies, pleaded guilty in federal court in Beaumont to illegally dumping oil into Texas port waters, among other charges. During initial investigations, Nicos I.V. Special Maritime Enterprises made material false statements to the Coast Guard about the oil discharges. As of November 27, 2018, both companies “pleased guilty to one count of obstruction of an agency proceeding, as well as cone count of failure to report discharge of oil under the Clean Water Act, and three counts of negligent discharge of oil under the Clean Water Act.”
The companies will pay $4 million in criminal fines and have also been sentenced to a 4-year probation. Under the probation terms, the companies have to submit an environmental compliance plan. Additionally, inspections included in the plan must be conducted by an independent auditor not associated with the shipping companies. The Master and Chief Officer of the Nicos I.V. vessel still may face up to five years in prison for making material false statements regarding the oil discharges. The Master and Chief Officer of the ship, Rafail-Thomas Tsoumakos and Alexios Thomopoulos respectively, had both been informed that the ballast system of the ship had been contaminated with oil, and did not report the discharges as is required by the Clean Water Act. One gallon of spilled oil can pollute up to one million gallons of water, and cleanup takes time and resources and often is extremely difficult. The Coast Guard and EPA therefore take oil spills and discharges seriously and will not hesitate to press charges against offenders.