Feds slap $770K fine on P.R. shipper for polluting Guánica Bay
Epps Shipping Company, a Liberian corporation doing business in Carolina, is facing a $700,000 federal fine for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding an incident dating to November 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The $700,000 criminal penalty includes a $100,000 payment for community service projects to rehabilitate and protect coral reefs affected in Guánica Bay.
“This sentence puts the international shipping industry on notice that there are serious consequences for violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and making false statements to the United States Coast Guard,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “For its criminal violations of the law, Epps will pay a significant criminal penalty, serve five years of probation, institute an environmental compliance plan designed to prevent further violations, and will be subject to independent monitoring. Epps also will fund projects to protect coral reefs in Puerto Rico.”
Epps reportedly owned and controlled the M/V Carib Vision commercial ship that transported molasses throughout the Caribbean. In November 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard inspected the vessel in San Juan, uncovering that the crew was discharging oily waste overboard, without processing it through the ship’s pollution prevention equipment system.
As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard opened a case against the company, which was subsequently prosecuted by the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Puerto Rico.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates the United States’ steadfast commitment to safeguarding the marine environment,” said Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Coast Guard seventh district commander. “We applaud the efforts of the many environmentally responsible companies, but will hold non-compliant corporations and their officers accountable for violating environmental laws.”
“I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of the Department of Justice for bringing this case to a proper resolution,” he said.
During the five-year probation period, Epps must implement an environmental compliance plan to ensure that any of the ships it operates or owns are up to speed with environmental requirements. The company’s efforts will be monitored by a third party that will report back to the court.