Ship Operator Fined $1.75M For Unlawful Bilge Dumping

February 11, 2020, 10:13 AM HST · Updated February 11, 10:13 AM
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Ocean rescue. File image by Wendy Osher.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) PTE LTD. (Bernard), a vessel operating company, pleaded guilty today in federal court to one count of maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of bilge waste from the tank vessel “Topaz Express,” a felony of the Act to Prevent Pollution from ships.

US District Judge Derrick K. Watson of the District of Hawaiʻi accepted the guilty plea. Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and Vessel Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan previously pled guilty to their involvement in the offense.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Bernhard will pay a total fine of $1,750,000 and serve a 4-year probation.

This is the largest fine ever imposed in the District of Hawaiʻi for this type of offense.

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In addition, Bernhard must implement a “robust” Environmental Compliance Plan, which applies to all 38 of the companyʻs vessels that call on US ports.

“This case should serve as a deterrent to individuals and companies that flout or laws and pollute our oceans,” Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bosset Clark said in a press release.

According to court documents and information presented in court, the defendants illegally dumped the bilge waste from the “Topaz Express” directly into the ocean without properly processing it through pollution prevention equipment.

Bilge waste typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel.

The defendants admitted that these illegal discharges were not recorded in the vesselʻs oil record book as is required by law.

On three separate occasions between May and July 2019, Bernhard, acting through Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan, its employees, used a portable pneumatic pump and hose to bypass the shipʻs pollution prevention equipment and discharge the bilge waste directly into the ocean.

They then failed to record the improper overboard discharges in the vesselʻs oil record book.

According to Coast Guard officials, Reddy destroyed paper sounding sheets and altered a copy of the vesselʻs electronic sounding log during an inspection, “in an effort to conceal how much bilge waste has been discharged overboard without being processed through the vesselʻs pollution prevention equipment.

Coast Guard Sector Honolulu assisted in the investigation.

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