Shipping Company Sentenced for Second Environmental Offense

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-04 11:25:50

A German shipping company has been ordered to pay $750,000 in fines and community service payments for a second oily water discharge offense.

Herm. Dauelsberg GmbH and Co. KG, of Germany was already on criminal probation for a 2013 case related to environmental violations aboard the M/V Bellavia off of California. A U.S. District Court has ordered the company to serve an additional 3 years’ probation for the latest infractions.

In January of this year a corroded bulk head aboard the Liberian-flagged M/V Lindavia, caused around 36,000 gallons of heavy fuel to leak into the ship’s hold. The cargo vessel was sent on to South Korea for cleaning, but not all the fuel was recovered.

For several days beginning Jan-31 the crew of the Lindavia pumped 1,430 gallons of oily water from the hold into 55 gallon drums on the upper deck. From there, crew members dumped the waste into the Bering Sea.

On February 11 the crew disposed of an additional 350 gallons of the oil water about 100 miles off the coast of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Coast Guard inspectors came aboard the Lindavia after the captain reported damage to navigational lights and a radar system. The inspectors become aware of the environmental crimes and ordered that the ship be detained in Dutch Harbor.

Following the June 3 judgement, the company must create an ‘environmental compliance plan’, which includes ship wide protocols for the company’s seven vessels operating in U.S. waters. Ships owned by the German company will also be subject to warrantless searches if there is suspicion a vessel has violated the law.

Wednesday’s judgement is the second passed down Alaska Federal Court in a ten day period. Another Germany company, AML Ship Management GMBH, was sentenced to pay $800,000 May 26 for discharging over 4,500 gallons of oily water.

The prosecutor for the two recent cases, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis, has noted that oil pollution continues to be a worldwide problem even in 2015. In a written statement Feldis said, “there is no excuse for this conduct. Companies that seek to profit from transporting cargo across the world’s oceans have a responsibility to likewise invest in following the law.”

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‘No Cover Up’ in Ship Sinking Investigation

By Reuters 2015-06-04 08:40:30

China has pledged that there would be “no cover-up” of an investigation into the sinking of a cruise ship on the Yangtze River, which has left 75 people dead and over 370 missing, as angry families gathered near the rescue site to demand answers.

Chinese authorities will start righting the ship at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Thursday so rescuers could “search for the missing persons in the shortest possible time and give maximum protection to the dignity of the deceased”, state news agency Xinhua said, citing the transport ministry.

Earlier on Thursday, President Xi Jinping convened a special meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of power in the country, to discuss the disaster, Xinhua said.

Authorities are investigating the crew members who were rescued from the Eastern Star, which capsized in a freak tornado on Monday night, and were “gathering evidence”, Xu Chengguang, the spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said.

“We will never shield mistakes and we’ll absolutely not cover up (anything),” Xu told a news conference on Wednesday night, adding a preliminary investigation had begun.

The Politburo Standing Committee called on rescuers to “take all possible measures” to save the injured and urged a “serious investigation into the cause of the incident”, Xinhua said.

They also stressed that “the work of appeasing the families is very important” and called on local authorities to “understand the families’ grief, carry out appeasement efforts and earnestly safeguard social stability”.

Only 14 survivors, including the captain and chief engineer, have been found since the ship carrying 456 people capsized.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning. An initial investigation found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board.

ANGRY RELATIVES

The announcement of the investigation came hours before dozens of relatives broke through a police cordon in bid to reach the disaster site.

Frustrated by the scarcity of information from local authorities, about 50 family members hired a bus to take them from Nanjing to Jianli county in Hubei, an eight-hour journey.

The ship had been on an 11-day voyage upstream from Nanjing, near Shanghai, to Chongqing.

Taxi drivers in Jianli were instructed on Thursday not to take family members to the local crematorium where the dead were transported.

A taxi driver showed a Reuters reporter a message on his mobile phone which instructed drivers to say they were unable to take them there because of “traffic control measures”.

An official from the Jianli vehicle management office, surnamed Liao, told Reuters by telephone, however, that there was a mistake with the text message and that it was meant to say the “rescue site”.

Several family members managed to reach the crematorium and entered inside, said a shopkeeper who worked nearby.

Hu Kaihong, a government spokesman, said at a news briefing that there were more than 1,200 family members in Jianli.

Relatives have asked the government to release the names of survivors and the dead, and questioned why most of those rescued were crew members. Some have also demanded to know why the boat did not dock in the storm, and why the rescued captain and crew members had time to put on life vests but did not sound any alarm.

There was a heavy security presence outside one of the hotels where some family members were staying.

“Right now the government has an attitude of complete apathy towards us,” said Cao Feng, 40, whose parents were on board.

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