Oily Water: Company Fined, Crew Jailed
The Norwegian shipping company DSD Shipping has been sentenced to pay $2.5 million for illegally discharging oily water by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The fine is a result of its convictions in Mobile, Alabama, for obstructing justice, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and tampering with witnesses.
Three senior engineering officers employed by DSD were also sentenced. Defendant Bo Gao, chief engineer of the vessel, and Xiaobing Chen, second engineer of the vessel, were both sentenced to six months imprisonment as a result of their conduct. Defendant Xin Zhong, fourth engineer of the vessel, was sentenced to two months imprisonment. All three also face the loss of their marine engineering license and exclusion from employment in the merchant marine. A fourth DSD employee, Daniel Paul Dancu, pleaded guilty in October 2015, and will be sentenced this week.
The company was ordered to pay $500,000 of the penalty to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation to fund marine research and enhance coastal habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. In addition, DSD was placed on a three year term of probation and was ordered to implement an environmental compliance plan to ensure the company’s vessels obeyed domestic and international environmental regulations in the future.
The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown for the Southern District of Alabama.
The evidence demonstrated at trial that DSD operated the M/T Stavanger Blossom, a 56,000 gross ton crude oil tanker, from 2010 to 2014 without an operable oily water separator. On January 29, 2010, an internal corporate memorandum written by a vessel engineer warned DSD that the pollution prevention equipment did not work. The memo further warned that if the problem was not addressed, “some day, it might end up that someone is getting caught for polluting.” However, rather than repair or replace the oily-water separator, DSD operated the vessel illegally for the next 57 months before the conduct was identified by U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in November 2014.
As the testimony at trial revealed, DSD illegally discharged approximately 20,000 gallons of oil-contaminated waste water and plastic bags containing 270 gallons of sludge into the ocean during the last two-and-a-half months of the vessel’s operation.
The evidence also established that DSD lied about these activities by maintaining fictitious record books on board the vessel. These records omitted the illegal discharges of oil and garbage and falsely claimed that pollution prevention equipment was used when it was not. Further, when the U.S. Coast Guard examined the ship, DSD’s senior ship officers lied about the discharges and ordered their subordinates to do the same.
In court documents filed prior to sentencing, prosecutors informed the court that despite convictions for eight felony offenses, DSD continued to deny wrongdoing in Norwegian press accounts. Prosecutors also noted that previous deficiencies in the operation of pollution prevention equipment had been identified in other DSD vessels while they were in international ports.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile, U.S. Coast Guard District Eight, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Anderson, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama, and Trial Attorney Shane N. Waller, with the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section, prosecuted the case.