Tanker Operator Convicted of Unlawful Discharge of Bilge Waste
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) Pte Ltd has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of bilge waste from the tanker Topaz Express.
U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson of the District of Hawaii accepted the guilty plea. Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and vessel Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan previously pled guilty to their involvement in the offense.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the shipmanagement company will pay a fine of $1,750,000 and serve a four-year term of probation. This is the largest fine ever imposed in the District of Hawaii for this type of offense. The company must also implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan which applies to all 38 vessels operated by the company that call on U.S. ports.
According to court documents and information presented in court, on three separate occasions between May and July 2019, the shipmanagement company, acting through Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and Second Engineer Padmanaban 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.