Vessel operator, engineers sentenced for oil waste discharge offences in Apra Harbor, Guam

Kota Harum (Photo: Baker)

A Singapore-based shipping company was sentenced last month in Hagatna, Guam, for illegally discharging oil into Apra Harbor, Guam, and for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharges of oily bilge water from one of its vessels, the US Department of Justice has confirmed.

Pacific International Lines (PIL), chief engineer Maung Maung Soe, and second engineer Peng Luo Hai admitted that oily bilge water was illegally dumped from the containership Kota Harum directly into the ocean and into Apra Harbor, Guam, without being properly processed through required pollution prevention equipment.

Oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel.

The defendants also admitted that these illegal discharges were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book as required by law.

Specifically, on October 4, 2019, Mr Hai, who was employed by PIL, used Kota Harum‘s emergency fire/ballast pump to discharge oily bilge water directly overboard, leaving an oil sheen upon the water of Apra Harbor.

Additionally, Mr Soe, who was also employed by PIL, admitted that excessive leaks in the vessel caused oily bilge water to accumulate in the vessel’s engine room bilge at a rate that exceeded the processing capacity of the oil water separator (required pollution prevention machinery).

Rather than repairing these leaks before continuing to sail or storing the oily bilge water in holding tanks to be discharged to shore-side reception facilities, it was the routine practice onboard Kota Harum to discharge the oily bilge water directly overboard into the ocean.

Mr Soe then failed to record these improper overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil record book. Additionally, Mr Soe admitted that he altered the vessel’s sounding log so that it would appear as though oily bilge water was being stored in the vessel’s holding tank instead of being pumped overboard.

PIL pleaded guilty to five felony violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to accurately maintain Kota Harum‘s oil record book, and one felony violation of the Clean Water Act for knowingly discharging oil into a water of a United States territory in a quantity that may be harmful.

The judge sentenced PIL to pay a total criminal penalty of US$3 million and serve a four-year term of probation, during which all vessels operated by the company and calling on US ports will be required to implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan.

Mr Soe and Mr Hai previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to two years of probation and one year of probation, respectively. Additionally, both defendants are prohibited from serving as engineers on board any commercial vessels bound for the United States during their respective terms of probation.

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