Wilmington, North Carolina - A Japanese shipping company that delivered steel products to Wilmington, NC, was convicted and sentenced today for obstruction of justice and falsification of an Oil Record Book to cover-up intentional oil pollution from the Motor Vessel (“M/V”) Atlantic Oasis, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood and United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. Nitta Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (“Nitta”) owned and operated the M/V Atlantic Oasis. The prior Chief Engineer, Jihnyun Youn, had previously been convicted and sentenced for falsification of the vessel’s Oil Record Book. 

The company admitted that its engineers failed to document the illegal discharge of oily wastes from the vessel’s fuel and lubrication oil purifier systems, as well as discharges of oily bilge waste from the bilge holding tank and from the vessel’s bilges. During a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the vessel on May 17, 2017, a junior engineering crewmember provided information to the inspectors about how the oily wastes were being discharged by the order of Chief Engineer Youn. The crewmember also showed U.S. Coast Guard inspectors where the hoses that were used for the discharges were hidden. Chief Engineer Youn lied to the inspectors about the existence of a Sounding Log, which is typically used in the industry to record the fluid levels of various tanks in the engine room. By the end of the inspection, Chief Engineer Youn had admitted to ordering the illegal discharges and admitted that there was a Sounding Log.

Nitta was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000,000; placed on probation for a period of three years; and further ordered to implement a court-approved comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation, which will be audited throughout probation. Chief Engineer Youn was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay a fine of $5,500.00.   

“This case demonstrates that those who pollute our oceans and deliberately mislead U.S. Coast Guard Officials will be brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute criminals that harm the environment.”

“While the charges in this case rest on the failure of the ship’s crew to properly document the discharge of oily bilge waste, the heart of this case is the illegal discharge itself and the damage that action did to our environment – particularly our spectacular seashores and waterways – is a critical necessity in the Eastern District of North Carolina,” said United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “We trust that the fines and penalties imposed in this case will act as a deterrent to anyone who would treat our environment as a dump-ground.” 

“Marine Environmental Protection is a critical mission of the U.S. Coast Guard. We respond to and investigate oil and hazardous material releases and discharges, as well as enforce environmental laws to preserve our waters and prevent future spills. We hope the outcome of this case deters future criminal acts that pollute the marine environment,” stated Captain Bion Stewart, Commander Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.

This case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard personnel from Coast Guard Sector North Carolina and Coast Guard Investigative Service S/A Derrick (“Rick”) Vachon. This case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth E. Nelson from the Environmental Crimes Section, Assistant United States Attorney Banu Rangarajan from the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Brendan Gavin from the U.S. Coast Guard.