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Guilty Pleas in Calif. Oil Spill

September 28, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A ship’s owner has pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay millions in fines and cleanup costs from the spill of 3,000 gallons of oil off Northern California.

The Coast Guard caught up with the ship off Central America by following the oily sheen in the tanker’s wake.

The Greek company, Anax International Agencies, agreed to pay more than $9.4 million in fines, cleanup costs and environmental restoration damages. The captain, Dimitrios Georgantas, agreed to probation that will bar him from U.S. ports for three years, prosecutors said.

Terms of the plea agreement are subject to approval by Chief U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who has scheduled sentencing for Dec. 13.

The Liberian-flagged tanker Command, which had been docked in San Francisco Bay for fuel tank repairs, left for Ecuador on Sept. 26, 1998. Despite Coast Guard orders not to use a damaged tank, Georgantas ordered fuel transferred to that tank at sea, the plea agreement said. A hose broke loose and oil spilled into the water.

At least 170 birds, including some rare brown pelicans, were killed when the oil reached the San Mateo County coast, authorities said. Cleanup costs were estimated at $1.23 million.

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