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United States v. Chartworld Shipping Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 17, 2019



         Presently before me are Defendants' Motion to Suppress Evidence and Motion to Suppress Statements by Vasileios Mazarakis (D.I. 46) and the outstanding willfulness issue in Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts One, Two, Three, and Five of Indictment, and Alternatively to Compel Election between Counts (D.I. 51). I have already resolved Defendants' Motion to dismiss in all other respects. (D.I. 111). The Parties have briefed the issues. (D.I. 47, 52, 75, 76, 85, 88, 105, 106, 107). I heard argument and testimony on August 16, 2019.

         For the reasons discussed below, I will deny Defendants' motion to suppress and deny Defendants' motion to dismiss based on the government's failure to allege willfulness in the indictment.

         I. Background

         Defendants are charged in a six-count indictment with crimes related to environmental violations committed on board the M/V Nederland Reefer. (See D.I. 14). The M/V Nederland Reefer is a Bahamian flagged refrigerated cargo/container ship.

         Large oceangoing vessels like the M/V Nederland Reefer produce a considerable volume of oily waste. The primary types of oily waste are sludge and bilge waste. Sludge is generated when petroleum products are purified for use in the ship's engines. Acceptable methods for disposing of sludge are incineration on board the vessel or offloading at port.

         Bilge waste is a mixture of oil and water that accumulates in the bottom of the ship, a.k.a. the bilge. Oil accumulates in the bilge as it leaks from machinery on the ship. Bilge waste is collected, stored, and processed on the ship to remove oil from the water before it is dumped overboard. The separation process is completed by a device known as the Oily Water Separator in conjunction with an Oil Content Monitor. Pursuant to environmental regulations, water can be sent overboard only if it is at or below 15 parts per million oil. All discharges and internal transfers of bilge waste are recorded in the ship's Oil Record Book.

         On February 15, 2019, the United States Coast Guard issued a Captain of the Port Order to the M/V Nederland Reefer that it would undergo a Port State Control inspection when it arrived at Port in Delaware. The ship arrived on February 20, 2019 and was boarded by the Coast Guard inspectors on the morning of February 21, 2019.

         The inspection included testing of the Oily Water Separator. At that time, Defendant Vasileios Mazarakis served as the M/V Nederland Reefer's Chief Engineer. He reported to the ship's Master and supervised the engine room crew. He was the individual responsible for the Oily Water Separator and making entries into the Oil Record Book. Chief Mazarakis conducted operational testing of the Oily Water Separator under the supervision of Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer David Turman. When water was pulled from the bilge holding tank, Chief Mazarakis was not able to run the Oily Water Separator without setting off the alarm on the Oil Content Meter. The alarm meant that the water had more than 15 ppm of oil. When Chief Mazarakis readjusted the settings, the Oily Water Separator would run with the Oil Content Monitor reading "zero." Following this testing, CWO Turman concluded that further inspection of the Oily Water Separator was necessary. That inspection led to a decision to expand the Port State Inspection to include MARPOL compliance. In the end, the Coast Guard completed a search of the entire ship over the course of about a week.

         As a result of the inspection, the Coast Guard cited the M/V Nederland Reefer with more than a dozen deficiencies related to the Oily Water Separator, the Bilge Holding Tank, the vessel's incinerator, and the Oil Record Book. The Coast Guard detained the vessel until the vessel owner provided security authorized by 33 U.S.C. § 1908(e). The Agreement on Security reached between the government and entity Defendants required that the company post a $1, 000, 000 bond and included certain other non-monetary conditions, including providing for the crew.

         Chief Mazarakis, whose first language is Greek, was interviewed in English by Coast Guard Authorities on February 21 and 22. Those interviews were recorded and transcribed. The February 21 interview took place in a state room and was conducted by Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Studie and Lieutenant Thomas McGuire. Neither CWO Studie nor Lt. McGuire was carrying a weapon. The February 21 interview lasted 41 minutes.

         The February 22 interview took place in the ship's office. The office measures approximately 10 feet by 15 feet. Four individuals from the Coast Guard were present: CWO Studie, Lt. McGuire, Special Agent Brent McKnight, and Special Agent Barry Buck. Agent McKnight and Agent Buck, although dressed in plain clothes, were carrying .40 caliber pistols. Questioning was conducted primarily by CWO Studie and Lt. McGuire. The door to the office was closed and only individuals affiliated with the Coast Guard were allowed in the room during the interview. Special Agent McKnight advised Chief Mazarakis at the start of the interview that the door was closed for privacy and that he was not detained. In the middle of the interview, Agent McKnight asked Chief Mazarakis if he had asked for a lawyer. Several minutes later, the interview was concluded after Chief Mazarakis said he wanted a lawyer. Testimony during the August 16, 2019 hearing was that Chief Mazarakis complained during the interview that he was having serious abdominal pain. The February 22 interview lasted 42 minutes. Chief Mazarakis' shore pass was revoked on February 22. It is not clear from the record whether the pass was revoked before or after the February 22 interview.

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion to Suppress

         There are three primary issues raised in Defendants' Motion to Suppress: (1) whether the warrantless search of the M/V Nederland Reefer violated Defendants' Fourth Amendment Rights, (2) whether the Coast Guard's questioning of Chief Mazarakis resulted in involuntary statements or ...

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