28 March 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The chief engineer the M/V Katerina, which was equipped with pipes to bypass an important water pollution-control device, was sentenced today to eight months in federal jail for his conviction on obstruction of justice charges.
Edgardo A. Guinto, 49, of the Philippines, was sentenced this afternoon in Los Angeles by United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper.
Guinto pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge in January, admitting that he allowed the bypassing of the oil-water separator on the Katerina, that he instructed crew members to remove and conceal the bypass pipe when the ship came into Long Beach, and that he made fraudulent entries in the ship’s pollution-prevention records known as the Oil Record Book.
The captain of the Katerina, Ioannis Kallikis, 65, of Athens, Greece, pleaded guilty in February to an obstruction of justice charge. By pleading guilty, Kallikis admitted that he acted corruptly and with the intent to impede a Coast Guard investigation into pollution violations by advising other crew members that officials of the operator of the ship wanted the crew to destroy the incriminating telexes. Kallikis is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Cooper on April 4.
The ship’s second engineer, Rolan O. Sullesta, 42, pleaded guilty in January to one charge of obstruction of justice for concealing one of two bypass pipes used on the vessel from the Coast Guard inspectors. Sullesta is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11.
The operator of the Katerina, DST Shipping, Inc. of Thessaloniki, Greece, pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to this water pollution case. DST pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book. DST was sentenced to probation, during which time its ships will be subject to special scrutiny. The company also paid a $1 million fine.
In its plea agreement, DST acknowledges that “on numerous occasions” during an approximately six-month period in 2004 the Katerina discharged oil-contaminated bilge water and oil sludge into the ocean. Furthermore, the shipping company acknowledges that it directed the Katerina crew to conceal the bypass pipe from U.S. authorities.
The Katerina is a Maltese-flagged, 600-foot-long, 16,320-ton cargo ship that arrived at the Port of Long Beach on September 10. The Katerina, which was carrying steel products, berthed on September 14. According to court documents, crew members contacted dock workers and reported that they had been directed to throw trash, as well as to discharge sewage and oil, into the ocean. A transport workers union representative contacted the Coast Guard and asked for an inspection of the vessel.
On the night of September 14, Coast Guard inspectors boarded the Katerina and saw evidence that the ship’s oil-water separator was not being used. Pursuant to United States law and international treaties, all large ships, such as the Katerina, are required to operate an oil-water separator to remove oil from bilge water that is discharged into the ocean. All such ships are also required to maintain a Oil Record Book, which is signed by the captain and must document all oil discharges.
A second inspection on September 15 revealed piping designed to bypass the oil-water separator. Inspectors also found evidence that oil had recently been discharged overboard from the ship.]
At Guinto’s sentencing hearing today, Judge Cooper noted that the “violations were planned and ordered by a despicable corporation” and that Guinto did “intentionally participate in these crimes.”
This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. The case was jointly prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.