Company hit with record fine for illegal ocean dump
A federal judge in Honolulu on Monday imposed a $1.75 million fine on a shipping company for the unlawful dumping and cover-up of bilge waste from an oil tanker last summer.
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A federal judge in Honolulu on Monday imposed
a $1.75 million fine on a shipping company for the unlawful dumping and cover-up of bilge waste from an oil tanker last summer.
The fine by U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson was the largest ever imposed in the District of
Hawaii for this type of
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) PTE Ltd. pleaded guilty to one count of maintaining false and incomplete records linked to the discharge from the tanker Topaz Express, a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships.
Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan
previously pleaded guilty
to their involvement in the offense.
In addition to the fine, Watson on Monday imposed a four-year probation and ordered Bernhard to implement an environmental compliance plan covering all 38 tanker vessels operated by the company that call on U.S. ports.
The 11-year-old Topaz
Express is a 591-foot oil tanker with a gross tonnage of nearly 28,000. Its home port is Hong Kong.
According to court documents and information presented in court, the defendants illegally dumped bilge waste from the ship sometime between May and July between Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Bilge waste typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel, and the law requires that it either be processed through pollution prevention equipment or offloaded to disposal facilities.
During a U.S. Coast Guard inspection in Honolulu, a crew member came forward to point out the unlawful bilge waste discharges.
Court documents indicate that on three separate occasions between May and July, the company,
acting through employees Reddy and Samirajan, used a portable pneumatic pump and hose to bypass the ship’s pollution prevention equipment and discharge bilge waste directly into the ocean.
They then failed to record the discharges in the vessel’s oil record book as required by law.
In addition, Reddy was accused of destroying paper sounding records and altering a copy of the vessel’s electronic sounding log during the Coast Guard inspection in an effort to conceal how much bilge waste was discharged.
“All vessel owners and operators are responsible for maintaining their vessels and preventing illegal discharges of oily wastes into the ocean,” Capt. Arex Avanni, commander of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, said in a news release. “We are committed to the people of Hawaii to protect our waters and the Pacific Ocean from the damage caused by pollution from