Apprentice mate pleads guilty to felony in Mel Oliver spill case

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana:
(NEW ORLEANS) — JOHN BAVARET, age 41 ,a resident of Jefferson, Louisiana, pled guilty today in federal court before U. S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman to a two-count bill of information for a felony violation of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act and a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
According to court documents, BAVARET held an apprentice-mate license, which allowed him to lawfully steer a tugboat only when a properly licensed captain was standing next to him on the wheelhouse. BAVARET admitted that from approximately July 20, 2008 through July 23, 2008, he steered the M/V Mel Oliver without a properly-licensed captain present, for DRD Towing, L.L.C., a marine company that operated tugboats. Further, he admitted that at 1:30 A.M. on July 23, 2008, the M/V Mel Oliver collided with the M/V Tintomara, a 600-foot tanker ship, causing the release of approximately 282,828 gallons of fuel oil in the lower Mississippi River near downtown New Orleans.
With regard to Count 1 (Ports and Waterways Safety Act), BAVARET faces a possible maximum sentence of six (6) years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three (3) years of supervised release. With respect to the Clean Water Act violation, BAVARET faces a possible maximum sentence of one (1) year imprisonment, followed by up to one (1) year of supervised release, and a fine of not less than $2,500 and not more than $25,000 per day of violation. Sentencing in this case is scheduled for April 27, 2011.
The case is being investigated by agents from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Matt Chester and Dorothy Taylor.
By Professional Mariner Staff