m/v Antonis G. Pappadakis arrested on whistle-blowing with no pollution facts, USA
A federal grand jury has indicted the owner, operator and chief engineer of a coal ship Antonis G. Pappadakis detained in Hampton Roads by the Coast Guard for more than a month.
The eight-count criminal indictment issued Wednesday names as defendants Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd., a Liberian corporation with offices in Athens, the operator of the ship; Angelex Ltd., the Malta-based owner of the ship; and Lambros Katsipis, the ship's chief engineer.
The charges include conspiracy, falsification of records and obstruction of justice.
The indictment broadens and shifts a court battle between the owner of the ship and the federal government that, until this week, largely revolved around how much money the Coast Guard would accept from the ship owner as a bond before the vessel and its roughly 20-member crew can sail from the port.
In a hearing earlier this month, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar slammed the Coast Guard for detaining the ship and its crew, an action that, he argued, had essentially imprisoned them in violation of the Constitution.
The Coast Guard has appealed the order, a process that could take months to play out. The first filing in the case is expected June 3. Oral arguments are scheduled for June 25 in Lewisburg, W.Va.
The fully loaded ship and most of the original crew, meanwhile, linger at Portsmouth Marine Terminal, where the ship is tied up. Meanwhile, attorneys for Malta-based Angelex Ltd., the ship's owner, say the financial solvency of the company is becoming more jeopardized as each day passes. The ship is the company's only income-earning asset, court filings state.
Two weeks ago, Katsipis turned himself in at Norfolk federal court, where he was charged with obstruction and falsifying records. He was released on an unsecured bond, said Trey Kelleter, an attorney representing him. A condition of the bond was that Katsipis stay at a local hotel. Five other crew members have been taken off the ship, detained as material witnesses, and are also staying at a local hotel. About 20 crew members are still on board, including a half-dozen replacements for those detained.
The ship loaded at Norfolk Southern Corp.'s Lamberts Point terminal on April 14. The following day as Coast Guard personnel conducted a routine safety examination of the ship, a crewmember passed a note to an inspector claiming the vessel's oily water separator had been bypassed and that oily bilge water had been discharged overboard.
The crewmember provided photos of a makeshift pump and hose, claiming they were used to discharge the substance. The crewmember led inspectors to the items and they were confiscated along with additional evidence.
Mr. Katsipis’ attorney, Trey Kelleter, said Katsipis denies the charges. Katsipis' wife died earlier this month in Greece, Kelleter said.
sfgate.com (San Francisco Chronicle)
I wasn’t able to find any facts presented by Coast Guard, which describe the scale, the place and the time of the alleged pollution. How much oily water was pumped out, where and when? What was the scale of the pollution? Ok, there were makeshift pump and bypass hoses, what about the crime itself? What’s the accusation, is it pollution or just presence of a device which may be used for illegal dumping? Is it necessary to hold the vessel in the detention on allegation, that somewhere some time there was illegal oily water discharge? Isn’t it enough to collect all evidence, suspects and witnesses, and let the ship go? What’s the $3 million bail Coast Guard is demanding, for what? Where is the crime, open my eyes somebody, please.
A letter from one of the Maritime Bulletin readers:
Good day Sir!
I’m the Captain of a merchant ship, and I said to the owner of the vessel, that I won’t ever again visit US or Africa. Thank you, but no way. I’d demand a replacement, do whatever it takes up to resigning, but won’t visit the US ports any more as a Captain, because of a constant threat of the detention and prosecution on some crazy pretext. The only nice exceptions I know are the maritime administration of Guam and Saipan.
One of the incident news comments in PilotOnline
It's abundently clear that the correct palms had not been sufficiently greased to allow this ship's passage into and out of the Hampton Roads harbor in an expeditious manner.
It's too bad that the VP does not have the kind of investigative reporters that can burrow into the seedy side of the local maritime business and report to us exactly what went down in this deal.
Simply reporting to us the information that is already in the public domain is of little help or interest.
May 25 13