Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Ship of Fuels

United States v. Ionia Management S.A., No. 07-5801-cr (2d Cir. January 20, 2009) (McLaughlin, Calabresi, Livingston, CJJ)(per curiam)

In the 1970’s, the United States entered into two international treaties, collectively known as MARPOL, intended to eliminate marine pollution by oil. To give effect to MARPOL, Congress enacted the Act to Prevent Pollution on Ships, 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a) (“APPS”), which authorizes the Coast Guard to issue any regulations necessary to carry out the treaty’s provisions. Under APPS, ships are prohibited from discharging oily waste at sea unless the discharged material is properly filtered. In addition, under C.F.R. § 151.25(a), oil tankers of 150 gross tons and above “shall maintain” an oil record book (“ORB”) to record all transfers and disposals of oily waste generated on the vessel.

This case concerns the M/T Kriton, a 600-foot oil tanker managed by the defendant corporation, which delivered petroleum products along the east cost of the United States. The ship’s crew, directed by two of its officers, routinely discharged oily waste into the ocean using a special hose that was designed to bypass the ship’s filtration equipment. The crew also made false entries in the ship’s ORB to conceal the discharges.

After a trial, the corporation was convicted of, among other things, thirteen APPS violations. It challenged them on appeal, arguing that the duty to “maintain” an ORB required it only to have possession of the book, but not to keep it accurately. The circuit disagreed. Without a requirement that the book be accurate, the regulation would be at odds with MARPOL and Congress’ intent to prevent pollution at sea. The court also noted that the plain meaning of the word “maintain” included “to keep in a state of repair, efficiency or validity,” thus in the context of a regulation imposing record-keeping requirements, the duty to “maintain” plainly includes a duty to maintain a reasonably complete and accurate record.

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