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The Algoma Central Corporation, headquartered in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. to a negligent violation of the Clean Water Act and will face a significant fine.
“The Great Lakes represent one of the most valuable resources in our region,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “This Office and our law enforcement officers will not hesitate to act to protect our natural resources and our environment from those who harm them.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango and Trial Attorney Patrick Duggan of the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, who are handling the case, the case, stated that the Algoma Central Corporation operated a fleet of dry and liquid bulk carriers operating on the Great Lakes. One of the vessels in the defendant’s fleet was the M/V Algoma Strongfield (Strongfield). Built in China, the Strongfield was delivered to Canada on May 30, 2017, by a crew from Redwise Maritime Services, B.V. (Redwise), a vessel transport company based in the Netherlands.
During the Strongfield’s delivery voyage, while manned by a Redwise crew, the oily water separator and oil content monitor malfunctioned or failed on multiple occasions, which resulted in an accumulation of unprocessed oily bilge water. On May 5, 2017, an Algoma employee directed Redwise to transfer and store the unprocessed oily bilge water in the Strongfield’s used wash water tank to avoid an overboard discharge of unprocessed bilge water into the Pacific Ocean. The wash water tank was intended to hold deck and cargo hold wash water and is not listed on the Strongfield’s International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate. Between May 5, 2017, and the Strongfield’s arrival in Canada, the Redwise crew made several additional transfers of unprocessed oily bilge waste into the wash water tank to avoid overboard discharges of untreated bilge water.
On May 19, 2017, as the Strongfield was transiting the Panama Canal, an Algoma employee boarded the vessel until the vessel’s arrival in Canada, where he assumed the duties of Chief Engineer. On May 30, 2017, the Strongfield arrived in Sept-Iles, Quebec, Canada, at which time the Redwise crew handed over operation of the vessel to an Algoma crew. Although some of the Algoma crew were advised that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water, Algoma acted negligently in failing to inform all onboarding Algoma crewmembers and the inspectors of the contents of the wash water tank.
On June 6, 2017, the Stongfield was transiting Lake Ontario. While in the waters of the United States within the Western District of New York, the 3rd Officer on board the Strongfield requested permission to empty the contents of the wash water tank into Lake Ontario, and the Captain approved the discharge. Because Algoma had negligently failed to inform the 3rd Officer and the Captain what the wash water tank contained, approximately 11,887 gallons of unprocessed oily bilge water were released into Lake Ontario. The discharge was stopped when another Algoma employee learned of the discharge and informed the 3rd Officer and Captain that the wash water tank contained unprocessed oily bilge water and instructed them to stop the discharge immediately. Following the discharge on June 6, 2017, Algoma contacted Canadian and United States authorities to report the discharge.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, under the direction of Resident Agent-in-Charge Cindy C. Buckley, Buffalo, NY, and Resident Agent-in-Charge Edward L. Songer, Detroit, MI.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 14, 2021, before Judge Schroeder.