3 fined for ship pollution

Cruise line workers face unsupervised probation for violations

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

Three cruise line employees were sentenced Thursday, a few months after being convicted of misdemeanor violations of U.S. environmental law.

The three Dutch citizens were sentenced for their role in dumping oily bilge water from Holland America Line's Rotterdam into the Inside Passage in 1994.

In U.S. District Court in Anchorage, two second engineers on the boat - Hantje deJong, 44, and Dirk Smeenk, 46 - agreed to serve two years of unsupervised probation and pay $10,000 each in fines. So did Nanne Hogendoorn, 54, who worked as technical director at Holland America's offices in Seattle.

All three men continue to work for the cruise line, said Tim Burgess, assistant U.S. attorney.

``This is the first time a shore-based manager has been convicted in the cruise ship industry,'' Burgess said. It's significant, he said, because now managers are on notice that even though they don't do the actual dumping, they can still be prosecuted for letting it happen.

Hogendoorn, Burgess said, knew a leak on the cruise ship was allowing seawater to collect in the Rotterdam's bilges and that the water was becoming contaminated with oil. He also knew the device on the ship that separates out oil from water didn't work.

Burgess said Hogendoorn knew about the situation but didn't order repairs to the ship or the oil separator before the 1994 cruising season in Southeast.

In a plea bargain, Hogendoorn and two engineers admitted to dumping overboard oily seawater from bilges several times during the summer into the Inside Passage. Without a plea bargain, the three men faced prison time and higher fines.

The Dutch company that operated the Rotterdam in 1994 for Holland America - HAL Beheer - was fined $1 million and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution when sentenced in 1998 for felony violations related to the dumping.

The Rotterdam is no longer in Holland America's fleet.

Burgess said companies have lots of reasons to obey environmental laws, including incentives for crew members who report violations.

The man who reported the dumping of the contaminated oil was awarded $500,000 - half the criminal fine applied to HAL Beheer.

Cynthia Cooper, head of the state Department of Law's criminal division, said there's nothing the state can do to prosecute the three men, despite their admitted actions being violations of Alaska's environmental laws.

As it is, the state can't prosecute someone who's been convicted by another state or by the federal government. Cooper said she'd like to have the option.

``At times, I think it's frustrating when the penalty isn't sufficient to protect the state's interests,'' she said.

A civil suit could be an option, but no decision has been contemplated yet.

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