Local News

Engineer pleads guilty to dumping oil near Morehead City

Posted May 3, 2010 11:46 a.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2010 11:56 a.m. EDT

— The chief engineer of a cargo ship pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to dumping oil in the waters around the state port in Morehead City.

Vaja Sikharulidze, 59, pleaded guilty to failing to keep an accurate oil record book on a tanker.

The charge stems from the illegal discharge in March of about 13,200 gallons of used oil from the ship Chem Faros into the water near the port. Ships can discharge oil-contaminated bilge waste if it is processed through on-board pollution prevention equipment, which is used to separate the water from the oil and other wastes, and the effluent contains no more than 15 parts per million of oil.

Federal authorities said they suspect the ship was dumping oil into the water as far back as September, but they could prove only the March incident.

Sikharulidze, a citizen of the nation of Georgia, was ordered to remain on the ship, which is being held in port, until his sentencing in August. He faces up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“The importance of keeping pollutants out of our natural resources has been realized over the last 30 years, and pollution prevention acts, such as the one that has been violated, were put in place to protect these resources," U.S. Attorney George Holding said in a statement. "We take violations of these acts very seriously because we want to ensure that we protect our natural resources for future generations."