What happens if you or another crew member violates a U.S. pollution law?

In the last few years, seafarers entering United States waters have encountered vigorous and frequent investigations into and prosecutions of environmental crimes and related offenses. These prosecutions usually involve a charge of deliberate discharge of oil by someone (or multiple people) aboard the vessel. More often, officials bring charges against persons who tried to cover up the action through false record book entries.

A variety of reasons can lead to the belief that violating a law might not be a bad idea: saving time, saving money for the company, or saving a job (because of an order from a superior). Ship Shape ShippingBut generally a violation has the opposite effect, leading to large fines for the company and seafarers, long trials and possible jail time.

While most seafarers behave honorably throughout the course of their employment, it is critical for all seafarers to understand the importance of protecting the marine environment, the United States’ laws that govern pollution offenses and the consequences of violating those laws. Seafarers may also find themselves serving as witnesses in pollution cases, possibly having to stay in the U.S. until they can give their testimony.