Maine may get $2M in oil pact


PORTLAND (AP) – Ocean conservation efforts in Maine are expected to receive $2 million as part of a $37 million fine announced last month against an oil tanker and bulk shipping company.

Overseas Shipholding Group Inc. agreed to the fine for illegally dumping waste oil and falsifying records. The U.S. attorney for Maine, Paula Silsby, said that if the federal court in Boston approves the plea agreement, the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will accept applications and distribute the $2 million.

The money coming to Maine will be awarded to agencies or nonprofits engaged in education, research or conservation to protect or restore marine habitat in the Gulf of Maine, the plea agreement says.

The senior vice president and head of shipping operations for Ocean Shipholding said the oil dumping that led to the $37 million fine violated company policy. The employees responsible for the violations have been fired.

“The company’s policy was exactly 180 degrees opposite,” said Capt. Robert Johnson, adding that the plea agreement was a blow to the company’s reputation in places such as Portland Harbor.

“We’re in Portland once a week. Portland is probably one of our biggest ports,” he said. “We feel part of the community. We’re very embarrassed.”

Ocean Shipholding pleaded guilty to 33 felony counts stemming from dumping violations from nine ships and for log violations for three other ships in Boston; Portland, Maine; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Wilmington, N.C.; and Beaumont, Texas.

Information from: Portland Press Herald,

AP-ES-01-02-07 0845EST

The $2 million sum compares to a $1 million compensation fund that was part of a civil settlement after the 1996 Julie N oil spill in Portland Harbor.