Prastana Taohim, the master of Mercator Lines-owned Gaurav Prem, has been convicted by a court in Mobile, Alabama.
Capt Taohim was found guilty on two counts of obstructing justice in a pollution incident in which hundreds of contaminated pipes were dumped overboard from the 2005-built, 73,901 dwt bulker in the Pacific last August.
The conviction followed the testimony of the vessel’s chief officer, who said that the master had ordered him to dump the pipes, said to be laced with insecticide connected to an earlier grain shipment, and later failed to record the discharge in the ship’s garbage record book when he presented it to US Coast Guard officials after the ship berthed in Alabama.
Chief officer Joel Atiga testified that he complied out of fear of reprisal from the master but that he had documented the dumping on camera. Photos were shown to the jury.
During cross-examination, Capt Taohim’s defence lawyer George Chalos asked Mr Atiga why he did not disclose the dumping to Panama Canal inspectors or to Target Ship Management, Gaurav Prem’s shipmanager. Mr Atiga told the court that he was worried the order might have come from management.
On Saturday, the jury found Capt Taohim guilty of obstructing inspection of the ship and of obstruction by creating a false garbage log. He will be sentenced on August 15.
The investigation was headed by the US Coast Guard and the US Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.