A Federal judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, on March 17, 2009, fined General Maritime Management $1 million and sentenced it to serve five years of probation. In addition, the company must rehire the whistleblowers if they reapply for employment, submit monthly reports, under oath, regarding conpliance, and allow a court appointed official to perform three audits of each vessel and three audits of its shore side office during the probation period.

The criminal convictions were related to events occurring on board the Genmar Defiance during a voyage to Corpus Christi in November, 2007.  On November 24, 2007, engine room crew members were directed by the tanker’s First Engineer, Cavadas, to assist in hooing up a flexible hose between the ship’s bilge pump and the overboard discharge valve bypassing the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment – its oil-water separator – and allowed crewmembers to pump the contents of the bilge tank directly into the Straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Two days later, one of the crew members working in the ship’s engine room was ordered by First Engineer Cavadas and Chief Engineer Rodrigues to assist in connecting a hose from the vessel’s fresh water supply to the oil content meter on the ship’s of oil-water separator. The connection allowed the engineers to “trick” the oil content meter and prevent it from shutting a valve that would re-circulate oily water to the bilge tank where it would be treated through the oil-water separator before being discharged overboard.  By tricking the oil content meter, the oily water was permitted to be discharged directly overboard in violation of international law.  Two engine room crewmen secretly photographed the illegal connection and provided the photographs to the Coast Guard during a boarding of the vessel on November 26, 2007, while the Genmar Defiance was docked at the Valero refinery.

Engine room operations on-board large ocean-going vessels such as the Genmar Defiance generate large amounts of waste oil.  International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil above 15 parts per million oil to water, which can be achieved by the proper operation of an oil-water separator.  The law also requires that all of the oil transferred onto, off of, or between tanks within a ship be recorded in the Oil Record book so all the oil on a ship can be accounted for when the ship is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and other port state control authorities around the world.

In the end, General Maritime was convicted of making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard and failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book designed to prevent pollution of the world’s oceans as required by United States and international law.