Singapore ship operator fined $1.75 million for dumping oily bilge

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday announced that a Singapore ship operator had pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally dumping oily bilge overboard and will pay a fine of $1.75 million.

According to the District Court of Hawaii, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) PTE Ltd. also maintained false and incomplete records related to the discharge of bilge waste from the tank vessel Topaz Express, a felony under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

The fine is considered the largest ever imposed by the Hawaiian court for this type of violation.

In addition to the fine, Bernhard will serve a four-year probation and implement an environmental compliance plan that will apply to all its 38 vessels currently calling U.S. ports.

“Under those laws, vessel operators are required to either properly treat their bilge waste onboard before discharging it into the sea or offload their bilge waste to disposal facilities,” said Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a statement. “This case should serve as a deterrent to individuals and companies that flout our laws and pollute our oceans.”

The Justice Department said the Topaz Express’s chief engineer, Skenda Reddy, and second engineer, Padmanaban Samirajan, had already pleaded guilty to their involvement in the violation.

According to court documents and information presented in court, the defendants illegally dumped bilge waste from the Topaz Express directly into the ocean, without properly processing it through pollution prevention equipment.

On three separate occasions between May and July 2019, Reddy and Samirajan 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 Coast Guard’s inspection of the Topaz Express in Hawaii, the Justice Department said 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 without being processed through the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment.”