The chief engineer of an Italian tanker must serve eight months in a U.S. prison and pay a $5,000 fine for illegal oil discharges, under a sentence imposed by a federal judge in New Jersey.

Girolamo Curatolo, 50, of Custonaci, Sicily, pleaded guilty in August before U.S. District Court Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark, N.J., and was sentenced Monday. Curatolo was charged along with Danilo Maimone, 31, of Furci Siculo, Sicily, of conspiring to conceal oily waste discharges from the Cielo di Milano, a 577’x102’ oil chemical tanker.

It was one of several cases recently investigated by the Coast Guard to crack down on the use of so-called “magic pipe” bypasses of pollution control systems. Illegal discharges of oily waste are estimated to be a major source of ocean pollution, surpassing even petroleum spills from shipping accidents.

The tanker called at ports in Maryland, Florida and New Jersey, where Coast Guard inspectors boarded in January 2015 and checked the Malta-flagged vessel, owned by D’Amico Shipping Italia S.p.A. and managed by D’Amico Societa di Navigazione S.p.A.

According to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, Curatolo admitted that the crew had intentionally bypassed required pollution prevention equipment by discharging oily waste from the engine room through its sewage system into the sea. He also admitted that he falsified the vessel’s Oil Record Book.

In his guilty plea, Curatolo also admitted he made false statements to the Coast Guard during its inspection, and instructed lower-level crew members to make false statements. He destroyed the vessel’s sounding log, with its records of oily waste storage, by ripping pages out and burning them in the vessel’s boiler after the Coast Guard boarded.

His shipmate Maimone, the tanker’s first assistant engineer, pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to obstruct justice, by concealing the discharge of oily waste and causing a false Oil Record Book to be presented to the Coast Guard. Maimone also admitted making false statements and instructing crew members to do the same. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 18.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.