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Tank vessel operator convicted of unlawful discharge of bilge waste, sentenced to $1.75 million fine
The Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) PTE LTD pleaded guilty on Feb 10, 2020, in federal court to one count of maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of bilge waste from the 'Topaz Express', a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a), announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark and United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson accepted the guilty plea. Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and vessel Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan previously pled guilty to their involvement in the offense. Judge Watson imposed a total fine of $1,750,000 and a four-year term of probation. This is the largest fine ever imposed in the District of Hawaii for this type of offense. Bernhard further must implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan, which applies to all 38 tank vessels operated by the company that call on U.S. ports. According to court documents and information presented in court, the defendants illegally dumped 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 vessel’s oil record book as required by law. Specifically, on three separate occasions between May and July 2019, Bernhard, acting through Chief Engineer Reddy and Second Engineer Samirajan, its employees, 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 improper overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil record book. Additionally, during the U.S. Coast Guard’s inspection of the Topaz Express, Reddy destroyed paper sounding sheets and altered a copy of the vessel’s electronic sounding log, in an effort to conceal how much bilge waste had been discharged overboard without being processed through the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc A. Wallenstein of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii.
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