One day after a federal judge issued an order sharply criticizing the Coast Guard’s detention of a coal ship over alleged environmental violations, the Justice Department filed notice of an appeal.
In filings in Norfolk federal court on Thursday, government attorneys asked the court for a stay of the order, at least until 5 p.m. Monday, to allow them to prepare the necessary papers for an appeal to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The order issued Wednesday by Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar "gravely hampers the United States’ ability to prosecute what appear to be multiple violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships," according to the Justice Department on behalf of the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection.
The Antonis G. Pappadakis, its crew and the ship’s operator, Kassian Maritime Ltd., "are under criminal investigation for intentionally bypassing the ship’s pollution-control equipment and discharging an oily mixture directly into the sea," the government filing states.
The criminal investigation, it adds, "may be adversely affected by the vessel’s departure from port under the surety agreement currently approved by this court."
Also Thursday, the chief engineer on the ship turned himself in at Norfolk federal court, where he was charged with obstruction and falsifying records. Lampros Katsipis was released on an unsecured bond, said Trey Kelleter, an attorney representing him, and a preliminary hearing is set for May 30.
A condition of the bond is that Katsipis stay at a local hotel, where he has been put up by Malta-based Angelex Ltd., the owner of the detained ship.
Katsipis was the only individual in the case charged Thursday, Kelleter said.
The complaint filed against the chief engineer, who is from Greece, came a day after Doumar lambasted the Coast Guard for holding the ship for weeks while investigating "potential criminal violations of a marine pollution prevention protocol."
The judge found that the government had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously, in violation of due process and in violation of the Constitution of the United States" in the detention of the Antonis G. Pappadakis.
"In more than thirty years on the bench, this Court can recall seeing no greater disregard for due process, nor any more egregious abdication of the reasonable exercise of discretion," Doumar wrote in a 16-page opinion.
Angelex was ordered to post a $1.5 million bond to cover any penalties or fines ultimately assessed for any environmental violations.
The Coast Guard originally demanded that the ship’s owner pay a $3 million "surety bond" before the vessel could leave port, court records show. Angelex responded by filing a federal lawsuit challenging the bond amount as "grossly disproportionate," beyond what the company could pay, and asking for a reasonable reduction.
The Coast Guard dropped the amount to $2.5 million, still more than Angelex said it had.