Owners, employee of ship docked in Eastport face criminal charges

Posted May 08, 2010, at 2:28 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The owners of a ship registered in Cyprus and one of their employees face criminal charges as the result of an alleged illegal discharge discovered in February when the Margit Gorthon was docked in Eastport.

Lemissoler Shipmanagement Ltd. of Limassol, Cyprus, and Volodymyr Nikolayev, age and address unknown, have been charged with falsifying the ship’s oil logbook, removing a gauge so the alleged discharge of bilge oil waste could not be detected and obstructing justice by ordering two shipmates to lie to authorities.

Court documents did not indicate whether the alleged discharge happened in Maine or in international waters.

Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, said in February there was no indication the Margit Gorthon polluted the environment in or near Eastport.

The 12,750 gross ton bulk cargo ship docked in Eastport on Feb. 1 and was detained three days later, according to previously published reports. Investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard boarded and detained the Margit Gorthon.

A gross ton is a British measurement equal to 2,240 pounds.

Pulp delivered from the Domtar mill in Baileyville was loaded onto the ship, Gardner said in February. The vessel did not unload any cargo in Eastport, he said. It was scheduled to leave Eastport on Feb. 4 for Santander, Spain, he said.

“This incident has very little to do with the Port of Eastport,” Gardner said at the time. “[The vessel] happened to be getting ready to untie from our pier [when it was detained].”

The Cyprus firm and Nikolayev have been charged with violating the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and a 1978 protocol relating to the convention, according to court documents. The treaties established that discharges of bilge waste from machinery spaces must contain less than 15 parts per million of oil.

The U.S. is a party to both treaties.

The inspectors discovered evidence that untreated, oil-contaminated waste had been discharged from the ship directly into the ocean, according to court documents. An engine crew member told Coast Guard inspectors that untreated, oil-contaminated waste had been pumped from storage tanks, through the bilge piping system, through a valve and into the emergency overboard discharge system.

Once in the discharge system, the waste was sent directly overboard, according to court documents. A discharge of untreated bilge waste and dirty lubrication oil was not recorded in the oil record book. Crew members also allegedly showed authorities where the valve had been removed and hidden so the discharge would not be discovered and said that Nikolayev had told them to lie to authorities.

Court documents did not say how much untreated bilge water was released into the ocean.

Representatives of the firm are scheduled to make their first appearance at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20, in U.S. District Court in Portland.

If convicted, the firm faces fines of up to $500,000 per count. Information about whether the employee would face prison time if convicted was not filed in federal court in Bangor.

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