Investigations

Looking into violations

U.S. Coast Guard Investigations

Coast Guard Boarding

Most seafarers have experienced a routine inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) while in a U.S. port. The USCG has responsibility for enforcing the laws of the United States and under U.S. law can board vessels, conduct inspections, investigate potential violations and seize evidence.1 The USCG may board a merchant vessel for one of several reasons—ranging from inspecting vessels suspected of violating U.S. laws to conducting routine inspections to check on a vessel’s operational condition.

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–Penalties associated with violating U.S. environmental laws

For more specific information about U.S. laws, please refer to SCI’s publication “U.S. Pollution Laws.”

You may know about some of the environmental regulations you must follow while working aboard a vessel but not about what happens if you violate the law. Below are a few of the penalties contained in the common pollution laws affecting vessels in U.S. waters.

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–Consequences of making false or misleading statements

Seafarers must always keep an accurate Oil Record Book and tell the truth to government officials investigating possible pollution crimes. If they do not, they face possible prosecution under a variety of obstruction of justice statutes in the U.S.

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–What happens to mariners during an investigation?

As a seafarer, you must obey U.S. and international environmental regulations, and you must speak truthfully to government officials. The USCG must investigate all reports of incidents regardless of who reported them. If needed, the USCG conducts three main types of investigations (beyond the preliminary investigation): Data Collection, Informal and Formal. The USCG will request different information depending on the level of investigation.

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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.

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