Guilty plea in pollution case

CRIME WATCH

May 02, 2007

The former chief engineer of a giant car-carrier ship pleaded guilty yesterday to polluting Maryland waters with oil sludge, the Department of Justice announced.

Frank Coe was employed by Pacific Gulf Marine Inc., a Louisiana ship operator that was fined $1 million and ordered to pay $500,000 for community service for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil-contaminated bilge waste from four of its car carriers.

Coe was chief engineer of one of those ships, the Fidelio. During an inspection in March 2003, U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in Baltimore found a bypass pipe, commonly known as a "magic pipe," which allowed the ship to dump oily bilge water without filtering it as required by law.

According to court papers, the Coast Guard removed the magic pipe, but Coe continued to dump the sludge, using a new method to bypass the filter.

Coe pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships before U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson. He faces a maximum of six years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the pollution charge and five years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge.

Coe is the third chief engineer with Pacific Gulf Marine of Gretna, La., to plead guilty. A fourth remains under indictment.

Prosecutors have said the company dumped the bilge water to save money.

Associated Press

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