Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Shipping Line Hit with Huge Fine for Another Deliberate Act of Pollution

US Authorities Penalise Singaporean Based Carrier
Shipping News Feature

US – Singapore-based shipping company, Unix Line, has been sentenced to pay a fine of $1.65 million, placed on probation for a period of four years, and ordered to implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation, after pleading guilty to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

In yet another in what seems an endless line of such cases this one, which we first reported on earlier this month, was the classic ‘magic pipe’ scam, a technique to disguise the discharge of pollutants so as to avoid the problems of legal disposal and any subsequent prosecution. Only the actions of a whistle blower brought the matter to the attention of the authorities.

In pleading guilty, Unix Line admitted that its crew members on board the Zao Galaxy, a 16,408 gross-tonne, ocean-going motor tanker, knowingly failed to record in the vessel’s oil record book the overboard discharge of oily bilge water without the use of required pollution-prevention equipment, during the vessel’s voyage from the Philippines to Richmond, California.

On October 24, 2019, Unix Line was indicted by a federal Grand Jury of obstruction of justice and a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. Under the plea agreement, Unix Line pled guilty to one count of a violation of the Act. According to the plea agreement, Unix Line is the operator of the Zao Galaxy, which set sail from the Philippines on January 21, 2019, heading toward Richmond, California, carrying a cargo of palm oil. On February 11, 2019, the Zao Galaxy arrived in Richmond, where it underwent a US Coast Guard inspection and examination.

Examiners alleged that during the voyage, a Unix Line-affiliated ship officer, Gilbert Dela Cruz, who was the First Assistant Engineer on the vessel, and who was responsible for making entries into the ship’s Oil Record Book and for the operation of the ship’s equipment used for treatment and discharge of oil-contaminated water, had instructed a crew member to use a flange/hose system (the infamous ‘magic pipe’) to facilitate the dumping of the oily waste while avoiding the ship’s normal oily waste management system.

During the examination, investigators discovered videos showing that approximately four illegal overboard discharges of oily waste had occurred from the Zao Galaxy’s engine room between the last week of January 2019 and February 11, 2019. According to the affidavit, the ship’s location data suggested that one of the illegal dumping events occurred when the Zao Galaxy was approximately just three nautical miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The allegation was that Filipino Dela Cruz, having directed crew members to discharge oily bilge water overboard, using the magic pipe to bypass the vessel’s oil water separator, had ordered another crew member to perform the illegal overboard discharge at night to facilitate the emptying, cleaning, and repainting of the Zao Galaxy’s Primary Bilge Tank prior to the Coast Guard’s examination. The discharges were knowingly not recorded in the Zao Galaxy’s oil record book.

Unix Line is a ship management subsidiary of MOL Chemical Tankers, which in turn is a Singapore-based subsidiary of the MOL Group.