–What if I have to stay in the U.S. as a witness?
In order to complete its investigation, the USCG and the U.S. Department of Justice sometimes need to have seafarers remain in the United States. This may keep you from home for an extended period of time—even if you are not responsible for the pollution yourself. Your employer is responsible for providing you with lodging, food and wages during your stay in the U.S. as a witness. Your employer may also provide you with an attorney or one will be assigned to represent you. Some seafarers have expressed concern when they are serving as a witness against the company and the company provides a lawyer. Lawyers have a duty to protect the interests of their clients—regardless of who pays for their services.
The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) contains a provision that individuals who report pollution violations aboard ships may collect up to half of a criminal fine assessed to the ship owner.3 It is important to note that the judge in the case has discretion as to whether to award anything, so a financial award is not guaranteed.
If you have any questions about the process, you should consult with your attorney. You may also contact the Seamen’s Church Institute or your local seafarers’ welfare center for support during your stay.