United States District Court, D. Delaware
me is Defendants' Motion to Suppress evidence and
statements by Nikolaos Vastardis. (D.I. 46). The Parties have
briefed the issues. (D.I. 49, 59, 60, 77, 78). Because I find
that the Fourth Amendment was not violated, I will deny
are charged in a four-count indictment with crimes related to
environmental violations committed on board the M/T Evridiki.
(See D.I. 16). The M/T Evridiki is a Liberian
flagged oil tanker, owned by Evridiki Navigation, and
operated by Liquimar Tankers Management Services. Large
ocean-going vessels like the M/T Evridiki 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.
waste is a mixture of oil and water that accumulates at the
bottom of the ship, also known as, 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 of
oil. All discharges and internal transfers of bilge waste are
recorded in the ship's Oil Record Book.
March 10, 2019, the M/T Evridiki arrived in the Delaware Bay.
The next day, the United States Coast Guard boarded the
vessel to conduct a previously announced Port State Control
inspection. The inspection included an examination of the
operability of the ship's Oily Water Separator. At that
time, Defendant Nikolaos Vastardis served as the M/T
Evridiki's Chief Engineer. He oversaw all engine room
operations, supervised all engine room crew members, and
reported directly to the Captain. He was the individual
responsible for the Oily Water Separator and making entries
into the Oil Record Book.
Vastardis conducted operational testing of the Oily Water
Separator under the supervision of Coast Guard inspectors.
When running the Oily Water Separator with the valves that
provided Oily Water Separator-treated bilge wastewater to the
Oil Content Meter for sampling in a closed position, the Oil
Content Meter registered zero parts per million of oil. When
operating the Oily Water Separator in compliance with legal
standards, Chief Vastardis was not able to run the system
without setting off the alarm in the Oil Content Meter. The
alarm indicated that the oil content of the water was in
excess of 30 parts per million of oil.
result of the March 11 inspection, the inspector concluded
that further inspection of the Oily Water Separator was
necessary. Further inspection led to a decision to expand the
Port State Control inspection to include MARPOL compliance.
The Coast Guard concluded its inspection on March 13, 2019.
result of the inspection, the Coast Guard suspected that the
Oily Water Separator on board the Evridiki was likely not
capable of separating out oil to meet the legal requirement
and cited the M/T Evridiki with more than ten deficiencies.
The Coast Guard further suspected that Chief Vastardis knew
about the deficiency with the Oily Water Separator and
operated it in a manner that resulted in the discharge of
bilge wastewater that contained impermissibly high levels of
oil. 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 bond and included certain other non-monetary
conditions, including providing for the crew.
Vastardis, whose first language is Greek, was interviewed in
English by Coast Guard authorities on March 13, 2019. The
interview took place in the ship's office and was
conducted by Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Studie and
Lieutenant Thomas McGuire. Neither CWO Studie nor Lt. McGuire
was carrying a weapon. During the interview, the door to the
ship's office was closed. The interview was recorded and
lasted 29 Vi minutes.
are three primary issues raised in Defendants' Motion to
Suppress: (1) whether the warrantless search of the M/T
Evridiki violated Defendants' Fourth Amendment rights,
(2) whether the Coast Guard's questioning of Chief
Vastardis resulted in involuntary statements or violated
Miranda, and (3) whether the Agreement on Security
Search of the M/T Evridiki
Coast Guard's search of the M/T Evridiki did not violate
Defendants' Fourth Amendment rights. The Coast Guard
possesses broad, general authority to board foreign vessels
in United States Waters to conduct warrantless safety and
document inspections as well as searches, seizures, and
arrests. This authority is provided by 14 U.S.C. §
The Coast Guard may make inquiries, examinations,
inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests upon the high
seas and waters over which the United States has
jurisdiction, for the prevention, detection and suppression
of violations of the laws of the United States. For such
purposes, commissioned, warrant, and petty officers may at
any time go on board of any vessel subject to the
jurisdiction, or to the operation of any law, of the United
States, address inquiries to those on board, examine the
ship's documents and papers, and examine, inspect, and
search the vessel and use all necessary force to compel
compliance. When from such inquiries, examination,
inspection, or search it appears that a breach of the laws of
the United States rendering a person liable to arrest is
being, or has been committed, by any person, such person
shall be arrested or, if escaping to shore, shall be
immediately pursued and arrested on shore, or other lawful
and appropriate action shall be taken; or, if it shall appear
that a breach of the laws of the United States has been
committed so as to render such vessel, or the ...