Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships

Citizens and activists can help stop environmental crime, but they need to know which laws apply, how to collect evidence and when to get a lawyer.

Different approaches to the role of citizens in collecting and reporting evidence of environmental crime were discussed last week by a three panelists at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.

In many cases, there is no meaningful law enforcement to stop environmental crimes. That’s where citizens can come in.

By understanding how to collect evidence and navigate whistleblower programs, anyone can help enforce environmental laws. Anyone includes, NGO staff, those impacted by crime or insiders, such as cruise ship crews.

John Kostyack, director of National Whistleblower Center, talked about a range of existing federal laws with provisions that reward citizens who come forward with credible information about environmental crime.  Shaun Goho of the environmental law clinic at Harvard Law School talked about how the courts are likely to interpret evidence and expert testimony. Stevie Lewis of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science said the EPA has been slow to act on the recommendations in a 2016 report on promoting citizen science. But, her group hasn’t.

Kostyack started his talk with a slide of a small, endangered porpoise known as the vaquita, according to a video of the event.

“It’s really a fitting symbol of what we’re up against,” he said. “The forces that are driving this beautiful animal to extinction in its home in the Gulf of California are the same forces that are driving much of the environmental devastation around the world and those are the forces of crime.”


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Caribbean Princess

Princess Cruises “depends on the oceans. We are committed to environmental practices that set a high standard for excellence and responsibility and help preserve the marine environment.” Its “Planet Princess” web page describes how the company does that through voluntary “environmental certification” and efforts to minimize air and water pollution.

The Department of Justice tells a different story. On Monday, the DOJ announced that the company was fined $20 million after violating the terms of probation from a 2017 citation for dumping polluted water into the ocean. This update notes that they continue to illegally dump plastic overboard as well.

A whistleblower – one of the ship’s engineers — originally brought that case to the authorities. That’s how regulators get most of their cases these days, according to a  Department of Justice official who spoke at a panel on the topic in April.
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A Greek shipping company and its chief engineer were indicted Tuesday for witness tampering and falsifying records to hide the illegal discharge of waste oil into the sea.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the six-count indictment against Chartworld Shipping Corporation, Nederland Shipping Corporation, and Chief Engineer Vasileios Mazarakis. A federal grand jury in Wilmington, Delaware acted after hearing evidence that the company failed to keep accurate pollution control records and falsified records. The charges also include obstruction of justice and witness tampering, according to the DOJ.

The case was brought under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), a U.S. law that implements the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, commonly known as MARPOL. The law has a whistleblower provision and investigators say they use it routinely when witnesses come forward.


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Whistleblowers play a big role in rooting out corporate crime and government misdeeds that take place behind closed doors. They also have a role in flagging environmental crimes that happen out-of-site on the high seas.

On April 16, a panel of environmentalists, advocates and lawyers will discuss marine pollution laws and the role private citizens and whistleblowers play in the detecting off-shore crimes. The webinar will cover both the benefits and challenges of using “unconventional actors” in marine law compliance efforts.

Event sponsors include the Environmental Law Institute, the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) and National Whistleblower Center (NWC).

The groups note on website for the event that it is part of an ongoing series of discussions examining “how whistleblower laws, emerging technologies, and citizen engagement are transforming the landscape of environmental enforcement today. The series aims to build capacity among government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals about whistleblower considerations.”
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blue-ocean-with-three-shipsA review of 100 recent Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) prosecutions available on Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) sheds light on the bipartisan support for the whistleblower provisions in combating ocean pollution. From President Clinton, to Bush, to Obama, and now to Trump, law enforcement has continued to utilize whistleblowers as a crucial components of APPS enforcement. The data shows that rewards were given to whistleblowers during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

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Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) whistleblower law brings dividends

WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 11, 2018—In an analysis of 100 recent Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) prosecutions available on Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), court records reveal that whistleblowers were responsible for over 75% of all successful cases in the years ranging from 1993-2017. Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP (KKC) completed this review in order to provide a snapshot of how the whistleblower reward provision has been implemented in APPS cases.

According to a statistical analysis conducted by KKC, the United States obtained over $270 million in sanctions from 100 polluters and paid 206 whistleblowers a total of more than $33 million in rewards under APPS. Additionally, over $63 million was ordered by courts to be used for beneficial purposes in fighting ocean pollution. Organizations that received restitutions include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.


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