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Fleet to pay fine

Fleet to pay fine
US Government prosecutors have extracted a criminal fine of $10m from Fleet Management, the operator of the Cosco Busan, which discharged over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay in a November 2007 casualty.

US Government prosecutors have extracted a criminal fine of $10m from Fleet Management, the operator of the Cosco Busan, which discharged over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay in a November 2007 casualty.

US Government prosecutors have extracted a criminal fine of $10m from Fleet Management, the operator of the Cosco Busan, which discharged over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay in a November 2007 casualty.

The company has also pled guilty on felony charges involving obstruction of justice and making false statements through shore-based supervisors ?with intent to deceive the US Coast Guard?.

Of the $10m fine, $2m is earmarked for marine environmental projects.

A US federal judge would need to accept the fine, which is part of a plea deal hammered out between the company and the US Department of Justice"s environment and natural resources division. Sentencing is scheduled for December 11.

The $10m fine comes after Fleet Management tried in vain earlier this summer to restrict its bill to a more manageable figure.

The company in May offered to plead guilty to two environmental crimes, apparently under the belief that a 2008 indictment that would keep the maximum fine to around $400,000 would be used.

However, US prosecutors revised the indictment, and Fleet Management lost a bid to get the US federal judge to prevent them from doing so.

Under the revised indictment, Fleet Management could have faced at total fine of $40m, according to US legal experts. Prosecutors, however, did not specify the amount they would impose.

Should the US judge accept the plea, it would oblige Fleet Management to a compliance programme subject to court audit.

The compliance programme would entail: ?better preparing masters of Fleet"s vessels, providing classroom and shipboard navigation training to those who navigate Fleet"s vessels, and ensuring that all Fleet vessels calling in US ports create a thorough plan for how they will navigate?.

Fleet has also admitted that it concealed ship records and created ?materially false, fictitious, and forged documents? to influence the coastguard"s investigation.

These included a false berth-to-berth passage plan for the day of the crash created after the incident at the direction of shore-side supervisors known as superintendents and with the knowledge of the ship"s master. Also the falsification of the official navigational chart to show fixes that were not actually recorded during the voyage.

The 2001-built containership hit the bridge in heavy fog on the morning of November 7, 2007. Official estimates of the damages ran to $70m for the ecological clean-up, $2m for the ship, and $1.5m for the bridge.

A 26-mile patch of shoreline was smeared with the oil spilt, and more than 2,500 birds of 50 species were said to have died.

John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ"s environment and natural resources division, said: ?The guilty plea by Fleet, combined with the recent sentencing of the ship"s pilot, sends a signal that navigation of large vessels is a serious undertaking and that those who fail to adequately train, execute and supervise their responsibilities will be held accountable.?

?This criminal prosecution emphasizes that vessel managers have the responsibility to train and supervise its crews and to follow required procedures,? said Joseph Russoniello, US Attorney for the Northern District of California.

www.TurkishMaritime.com.tr

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