Since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, pursuant to a directive of the Office of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard has undertaken a comprehensive program of boarding U.S. and foreign flagged vessels calling at U.S. ports and facilities. As a result of the post-9/11 heightened security measures, there has been a significant increase in the scrutiny to which vessels, and their records/logs, are being inspected. Such scrutiny, rightly or wrongly, has led to a rash of vessel/crew detentions, as well as criminal allegations, charges and convictions of vessel Owners, Operators, Managers, Officers and crew.
The U.S. authorities have made it clear that they will seek jail sentences for senior shipboard and shore-side personnel who are guilty of committing both substantive pollution offense and/or falsifying records, such as the vessel’s Oil Record Book (ORB). Many times, upon the mere “discovery” of potential by-passing paraphernalia such as a flexible hose or suspicious fittings and piping in the engine room, U.S. prosecutors will commence a Grand Jury investigation seeking to obtain an indictment. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), through referring agencies, such as the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), does aggressively investigate and prosecute possible illegal discharges in US waters, false Oil Record Book entries, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and witness tampering. The United States treats such violations seriously, and has demonstrated that it will spare no expense in the investigation and prosecution of such matters both domestically and abroad.