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November 6, 2018

German shipping company fined for polluting Portland Harbor

A German shipping company, MST Mineralien Schiffahrt Spedition und Transport GmbH, has been ordered to pay a $3.2 million fine after pleading guilty Friday to federal charges that it deliberately discharged oily waste in Portland Harbor, and then covered up the illegal dumping with falsified log books.

MST pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and one count of obstruction of justice for using falsified log books to hide intentional discharges of oily bilge waste occurring over a nine-month period during which the ship regularly made port calls in Portland, according to a joint news release from Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey B. Clark for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and United States Attorney Halsey B. Frank for the District of Maine.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced the company in accordance with a plea agreement and ordered it to pay a $3.2 million criminal fine and serve a four-year term of probation during which vessels operated by the company will be required to implement an environmental compliance plan, including inspections by an independent auditor.

The company had been on probation after being convicted of similar environmental crimes in the Great Lakes in 2016.

"Today's action demonstrates that the Coast Guard and the Justice Department will not stand by while foreign vessels intentionally pollute our oceans and then try to cover up their criminal acts by lying to the U.S. Coast Guard," said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. "This company is a repeat offender, which makes plain that it has shown contempt for the rule of law. I applaud the investigators and prosecutors who obtained this result."

According to documents filed in court, MST discharged oily bilge waste from the Marguerita through the use of a so-called "magic pipe" that bypasses required pollution prevention equipment. The discharges violated MARPOL, an international treaty and were not recorded in the vessel's oil record book, a required ship log regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard to assure compliance.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, which conducted the inspection of the ship.

The prosecution was handled by trial attorney John Cashman and senior litigation counsel Richard Udell of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maine.

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