On October 25, 2016, two German shipping companies pleaded guilty to environmental crimes for using what is commonly referred to as a “magic pipe” to discharge pollutant-laden waste into waters of the United States. The companies, which owned and operated the M/V Nils B, acknowledged that they used a black hose to dump used fuel oil and lubricating oil. Such discharging activities are prohibited by United States and international law due to serious negative environmental impacts. The companies and the United States have agreed to recommend that the court impose a criminal penalty of $750,000.00. The case is pending before the Honorable Jan M. Adler in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.
Unfortunately, this recent case is one of many examples where international companies have chosen to disregard the law and the environment in favor of decreased waste discharge costs. Companies utilizing a “magic pipe” to discharge waste materials against the law face stiff penalties if discovered. As a result, some companies have actively discouraged their employees from reporting illegal discharge activities.
Any shipowner or operator who terminates a crewmember that lawfully reports violation of United States laws prohibiting waste discharge may face claims of retaliation by the crewmember. Crewmembers should be vigilant in protecting their rights and following the law.
If you or a loved one has been terminated or demoted for reporting an unsafe working condition or unlawful waste discharge activities, contact the experienced lawyers at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner today.