Operator of cargo ship held at Lake Superior port charged

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The German operator of a cargo ship detained at a Lake Superior port in Minnesota last year is charged with covering up illegal dumping of oily wastewater, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The German shipping company MST Mineralien Schiffahrt was indicted on allegations that it violated the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said. The company is accused of violating the act by failing to maintain an accurate ship record about the disposal of oil-contaminated waste. It’s also charged with presenting falsified records to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Company officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.

According to the indictment and court documents, from February 2015 through October 2015, the ocean-going M/V Cornelia experienced significant leakages of oily wastewater. As a result, the ship was accumulating a substantial volume of machinery space bilge water.

On at least 10 times during that period, prosecutors allege, the ship’s chief engineer, the second engineer or both told members of the engine room crew to transfer machinery space bilge water from the dirty bilge tank to the clean bilge tank — a separate tank that is supposed to contain only clean water — and then discharge the oily wastewater overboard. At least one occurrence was in about May 2015 while the ship was in the Great Lakes.

Prosecutors allege the chief engineer intentionally failed to record the transfers and discharges of oily wastewater in the Cornelia’s record book, giving the false impression that all of the oily wastewater had been properly handled and disposed of.

The Cornelia was detained just outside the Duluth harbor for more than a month last year while the Coast Guard investigated. The international crew had little to do but wait after taking on a load of grain destined for Tunisia in November. The 576-foot, Liberian-flagged ship finally left on Dec. 18.

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