A German shipping company that admitted last month to dumping oily water into the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska early this year was ordered Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage to pay $750,000 in fines and community service payments.
Herm. Dauelsberg GmbH & Co. KG, which already was on criminal probation for another pollution case, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Tim Burgess to serve another three years of probation. In addition, it must establish an "environmental compliance plan" that will require shipwide protocols for each of its seven vessels that sail in U.S. waters and an auditor to inspect and ensure that the plan is being followed. The company's ships also are under heightened scrutiny through searches without warrants if there's a reasonable suspicion of a crime, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
It's the second criminal case of oil dumping by a cargo ship off Alaska resolved in the last 10 days, said Kevin Feldis, first assistant U.S. attorney in Alaska. In the other case, AML Ship Management GmbH admitted that a ship carrying vehicles, the City of Tokyo, dumped oily wastewater in U.S. waters off Alaska back in August. AML was sentenced May 26.
"It's unusual to have two cases back to back like this," said Feldis, who along with Yvonne Lamoureux prosecuted the cases. "It's indicative of a continuing problem of oil pollution from vessels."
Companies know they are not allowed to dump oil or oily water into the ocean, he said. An international treaty obligation calls for ships to keep accurate oil records, he said.
The German company operated the Lindavia, a Liberian-flagged cargo ship that was traveling from China to Dutch Harbor to pick up frozen seafood, Feldis said.
The troubles began before the voyage. One of the ship's fuel tanks was corroded and leaked 35,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into the cargo hold. The majority of the fuel was pumped out, and the ship was sent to South Korea for the sticky, viscous residue to be cleaned, Feldis said.
"But they don't fully clean it," he said. Oil remained in the bilge hold -- the bottom of the cargo area. During the trip to Dutch Harbor, water accumulated there "and it becomes an oily water mess," he said.
On at least five days starting Jan. 31, Lindavia crew members pumped at least 1,430 gallons of oily water from the hold into 55-gallon drums on deck and then dumped the waste overboard, prosecutors said. On Feb. 11, about 100 miles from the Alaska coast, the crew dumped at least 350 more gallons directly into the Bering Sea, according to the government's case.
The ship encountered rough waters on its journey. When it arrived in Dutch Harbor, the captain alerted the U.S. Coast Guard of damage to navigational lights and a radar system. During its inspection, the Coast Guard became aware of possible environmental crimes, Feldis said. The ship was initially detained in Dutch Harbor.
The company failed to record the discharge of oil, failed to maintain an accurate oil record book and presented a false record to the Coast Guard, according to prosecutors.
At the time, Herm. Dauelsberg was on federal probation in California for pollution in 2013 involving a different vessel. Its probation in that case was revoked and it was placed on a new three-year term with the added element of the environmental plan, the prosecutor said.