Fines for ship’s bilge discharge should have been higher

We applaud the recent leveling of a hefty fine in connection to a German-based cargo ship dumping oily bilge water into the Great Lakes – and only regret the sanction wasn’t much higher.

As reported by MLive and other news gathering agencies, the firm MST Mineralien Schiffahrt, based in Schnaittenbach, Germany, was assessed a $1 million fine after pleading guilty last week in U.S. District Court to an environmental law violation.

The 575-foot bulk freighter Cornelia was held by federal authorities in a Duluth, Minn. harbor late last year while federal authorities investigated suspicions the ship had illegally discharged oily bilge water at least 10 times in 2015.

A number of the discharges – it was not determined specifically how many – took place in the Great Lakes, MLive noted.

The suspicions were rooted, in large part, in inspections on ship’s log books that took place in Detroit prior to the vessel being held in Duluth,

MLive reported that under the plea agreement OK’d by U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen, MST must pay a $800,000 criminal fine and make a $200,000 community service payment to support protection and preservation of Lake Superior and its watershed.

The fines are a “strong deterrent to future would-be polluters and significant funding to preserve and protect Lake Superior for future generations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kokkinen, who prosecuted the case, said in the MLive report.

We support international commerce on the Great Lakes as much as anyone. And the Germans have proven over time to be good trading partners. All of that said, however, we cannot tolerate wanton disregard for U.S. law and the natural resources it protects. We trust this shipping company – and any others that may have been watching – got that message.

– Marquette Mining Journal