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Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships

Illegal ocean pollution from maritime activity is widespread and harmful to ecosystems and industries. It kills wildlife, disrupts coral reefs, affects the food chain, and can make drinking water and seafood unsafe for human consumption.

Ocean dumping happens far from the eyes of regulators and is extraordinarily difficult to detect.  Whistleblowers are critical to enforcing the rules.

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS)

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (“APPS”), which implements the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”), makes it a crime to knowingly violate certain provisions of MARPOL, APPS, and other pollution laws.  The APPS applies to U.S. commercial vessels as well as non-U.S. commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters or a port of U.S. jurisdiction.  The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are the primary agencies enforcing MARPOL and APPS.  The APPS has a whistleblower reward provision, which helps to empower and incentivize workers to expose and combat pollution from ships.  33 U.S.C. § 1908(b).

Common Violations of the APPS and Other Laws

The dumping of oil-based pollutants and other identified noxious liquids are one of the primary APPS violations.  For example, illegal “magic pipes” are often used to bypass filtering and monitoring devices for oily bilge water.

Other typical violations found include:

  • Discharging sludge overboard instead of lawful disposal ashore or by other lawful means;
  • Disabling or interfering with alarms or monitoring intended to record and detect excess oily concentrations;
  • Keeping a false “Oil Record Book” — a logbook of all relevant discharges that ships over a certain size are required to accurately maintain.

Knowing non-compliance with ship-pollution laws might result in additional criminal and civil charges against individuals, owners, supervisors and officers under the Clean Water Act and the River and Harbors Act.  Concealing, falsifying, or lying about pollution can bring charges for false statements or obstruction of justice or government proceeding.

APPS Whistleblower Rewards Encourage Exposure of Illegal Ship Pollution

Under the APPS, whistleblowers, even if not U.S. nationals, might receive up to one-half of collected fines or civil penalties.  The APPS has generated over $33 million in whistleblower rewards to individuals and groups.

APPS whistleblower awards recognize that numerous incidents of ocean pollution remain undetected unless witnesses come forwardConscientious mariners and others in the industry can help to fight against harm to ocean wildlife, fragile coral reefs, and ecosystems.

The APPS is one of a number of environmental laws with whistleblower provisions that encourage the exposure of environmental abuse.  If you know about environmental fraud and would like to know if it falls within a whistleblower program, please contact us.

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