Bloomberg News

Ship Operator in Houston Spill on Probation for Pollution Case

March 25, 2014

The operator of the bulk carrier that collided with a barge carrying fuel oil in the Houston Ship Channel was on probation for a 2011 federal pollution violation.

Cleopatra Shipping Agency Ltd. operates the Summer Wind, a 585-foot Liberian flag vessel owned by Sea Galaxy Marine SA, Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Information Center, said in a telephone interview today.

Cleopatra, based in Pireas, Greece, pleaded guilty in September 2012 to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, according to a statement from federal prosecutors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, issued at the time. It was ordered to pay a $300,000 fine and serve a three-year term of probation requiring implementation of an environmental compliance program.

According to the plea agreement entered at the time, Cleopatra was allowed to move for early termination of the probation after 24 months. There’s no indication from the court docket that the company has applied for that. Conditions of the probation included no further violations of federal, state or local laws and the funding of the compliance program.

In August 2011, the Stellar Wind, an oceangoing bulk carrier traveling from Spain to the U.S., discharged bilge water and other oily waste without using an oily water separator as required by federal and international law, prosecutors said. The chief engineer didn’t record the illegal discharges as required and made false entries indicating that the separator was used.

A message left today with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned. There was no answer at numbers listed for Cleopatra in Greece and London.

The 4,000-barrel spill occurred when a barge being towed by the vessel Miss Susan collided with the Summer Wind, causing one of the barge’s six tanks to leak fuel oil, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard is investigating.

The barge is owned by Kirby Inland Marine LP, which is responsible for the cleanup. The Oil Pollution Act applies even though the collision occurred in state waters, Beuerman said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Harry R. Weber in Houston at hweber14@bloomberg.net; Dan Murtaugh in Houston at dmurtaugh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net Richard Stubbe


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