Maritime law is a complex web of international treaties, federal statutes, and regulations that impose criminal penalties on ship owners and operators for violations of law. The attorneys Hilder & Associates, P.C., have experience in defending clients through investigation, and any subsequent prosecution with the ultimate goal always being to avoid indictment, prosecution, or conviction. They can respond immediately with experienced attorneys and professionals to meet any emergency.
The U.S. Coast Guard and federal prosecutors aggressively pursue MARPOL violations including the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) or false statements made in Oil Record Books or obstruction of justice by crew during the investigations. These investigations are particularly precarious for ship owners, ship managers or operators because it can result in the vessel and crew being detained as well as expensive fines – all of which can take the vessel out of service for days to months and cost its owners millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, fees, and other costs – to say nothing of potential imprisonment of liable individuals.
Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships
MARPOL Annex I was designed to prevent oil pollution from ships. The U.S. is a signatory to the MARPOL 73/78 and Annexes I, II, III, V, and VI and has implemented it in the APPS. The Department of Justice prosecutes MARPOL and APPS violations routinely in federal courts. The first notice a ship owner or manager may have of any potential problem is when the U.S. Coast Guard boards a vessel after it comes into port. The U.S.C.G. will request to inspect the Oil Record Book and other documents. They may also interview the crew and inspect the vessel, particularly looking to see if the Oil Water Separator has been tampered with or bypassed by the use of a “magic pipe.”
Because the ship may be liable in rem and seized or sold, prosecutors may demand the execution of a Security Agreement before the vessel is allowed to depart providing for a bond on the vessel and making provisions for the housing and maintenance of the crew to remain in the area while the investigation is completed. The assistance of experienced counsel is critical to prevent this from happening or obtain release.
Presenting false documents to the U.S. Coast Guard, including an Oil Record Book that omits the occurrence of an oily water discharge of untreated bilge or other matters is a federal crime routinely prosecuted in federal courts. This may occur even when responsible managers or owners have no knowledge of any violation.
Similarly, officers or crew can be prosecuted for making false statements to federal law enforcement who interview them during inspections or investigations in the U.S.
False statements is a crime that can result in significant fines and imprisonment of five or even eight years depending on the circumstances.
Emergency Maritime Response
Hilder & Associates’ white collar crime attorneys are available to immediately respond to maritime situations where advice, guidance, and investigations are needed to respond to an emergency or unexpected occurrence. Whether the U.S. Coast Guard or other law enforcement have boarded the vessel, a spill or unauthorized discharge has occurred, an internal investigation is required, or a crew member has been arrested on leave, Hilder & Associates can respond immediately deploy a team of experienced attorneys and experts to suit your needs. Contact us at 733-766-0671 for skilled and swift legal defense.