MOL Subsidiary Unix Line Sentenced to $1.65M MARPOL Fine

Whistleblower-supplied imagery allegedly showed illegal discharges from the Zao Galaxy (courtesy CGIS)

Published Mar 24, 2020 7:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

MOL subsidiary Unix Line PTE has been sentenced to a fine of $1.65 million and placed on a four-year probationary period for admitted MARPOL violations aboard the tanker Zao Galaxy. 

"Deliberately concealing illegal discharges of oil waste into our oceans is a federal crime we will not tolerate,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This sentencing shows that polluting our oceans and misleading the Coast Guard will cost you.”

Earlier this year, Unix Line admitted that crew members aboard the product tanker Zao Galaxy knowingly failed to record the overboard discharge of oily bilge water without the use of pollution-prevention equipment during a voyage from the Philippines to Richmond, California. 

On February 11, 2019, the Zao Galaxy arrived in Richmond, where she underwent a U.S. Coast Guard inspection and examination. During the course of the port state control boarding, a whistleblower provided the inspectors with four videos depicting untreated oily waste sent overboard "through a configuration of drum containers, flexible pipes, flanges, and the soot eductor." One video was time-stamped for 0513 hours on February 11, when the Zao Galaxy was located just three nautical miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The crewmember showed the Coast Guard inspectors the location of the "magic pipe" discharge equipment and demonstrated how it could be used to bypass the oily water separator. Later lab testing confirmed that there were traces of lubricating oil and fuel inside these components. A second crewmember asserted that the Zao Galaxy's first assistant engineer, Philippine national Gilbert Dela Cruz, ordered him to carry out the discharges. The indictment also alleges that Dela Cruz attempted to convince the second crewmember to withhold information about the discharges from the Coast Guard. 

Unix Line is a ship management subidiary of MOL Chemical Tankers, a Singapore-based subsidiary of MOL Group, and this is its second MARPOL conviction in the United States since 2003. Gilbert Dela Cruz has also been charged as an individual, and if convicted on all counts and sentenced to the maximum federal guideline limits, he could face decades in prison.

“The Coast Guard Investigative Service will continue to make criminal investigations that deter maritime organizations from breaking international and U.S. law designed to protect our finite natural marine resources a priority,” said Kelly Hoyle, Special Agent in Charge, Pacific Region of the Coast Guard Investigative Service.