The US Dept. of Justice announced that Singapore-based Odfjell Asia II Pte Ltd. and a senior crew member pleaded guilty Tuesday in Hartford for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), an environmental law that protect oceans, fisheries and marine life from harmful pollution.
As a result of the conviction, the shipping company will face a stiff criminal fine, contribute to conservation efforts in coastal areas of Long Island, and submit to strict monitoring.
Although Odfjell’s illegal discharges of oily waste occurred in international waters, a quarter of the $1.2M penalty will fund improvements and protection of the Long Island Sound.
“When these violations occur, the Coast Guard will work with our partners to ensure that the violators are held accountable under the law,” Rear Admiral Abel said in a release.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Odfjell operated the M/T Bow Lind, a 577-foot, 26,327 gross ton petroleum/chemical tanker ship. On Nov. 6, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard boarded the vessel in New Haven to conduct an inspection. The inspection and criminal investigation found that between Oct. 2011 and Oct. 2012, while in international waters, the vessel discharged machinery space bilge water directly into the sea on three occasions.
At the direction of senior engineer Ramil Leuterio, crew members bypassed pollution prevention equipment that was in place to ensure that any discharged bilge water contain less than 15 parts per million of oil. The crew then concealed the illegal discharges by making misleading entries and omissions in the vessel’s oil record book.
According to several engine room crew members, Leuterio directed them to use a complex system to transfer the bilge water from the bilge holding tank to the sewage tank. From the sewage tank, the bilge water was dumped directly into the sea without passing through pollution prevention equipment. Once the bilge holding tank was emptied, Leuterio directed the lower ranking crew members to put clean fresh water and salt water into the tank. As the pollution prevention equipment automatically records the time it is being operated, Leuterio then processed the clean water through the prevention equipment, thereby creating an electronic record to account for the bilge water that had bypassed the equipment and been discharged directly overboard.
Under the terms of a binding plea agreement, if accepted by the court, Odfjell will be placed on probation for a period of three years and pay a criminal penalty totaling $1.2 million, including $300,000 that will be directed to The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects to preserve and restore the marine environment of Long Island Sound.
Leuterio, 42, a citizen of the Philippines, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of violating APPS for directing lower ranking crewmembers to make the illegal discharges and for failing to accurately maintain the vessel’s oil record book. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of six years and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing for May 14, 2014.