A federal grand jury in Oakland, California, has indicted two foreign shipping companies and a crewmember on a vessel owned by one of the companies and operated by the other, charging the defendants with failing to maintain an oil record book for bilge water discharges into the sea and with obstruction of justice.
The indictment alleges that Zao Galaxy, an ocean-going motor tanker, was owned by FGL Moon Marshall, a Marshall Islands company, and operated by Unix Line, a Singapore company.
An affidavit filed by an agent of the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) in connection with an earlier-filed criminal complaint further alleges that, on January 21, 2019, Zao Galaxy set sail from the Philippines and, on February 10, 2019, the ship arrived at a port in Richmond, California, bearing a cargo of palm oil.
According to the indictment, Gilbert Dela Cruz, 37, a citizen of the Philippines, was the first assistant engineer on Zao Galaxy’s vessel crew and acted as an employee and agent of both FGL Moon and Unix. Mr Dela Cruz was responsible for making entries into the ship’s oil record book and for the operation of the ship’s equipment used for treatment and discharge of oil-contaminated water.
The complaint affidavit further alleges that, when the ship reached Richmond, examiners from the US Coast Guard boarded the ship to conduct an inspection and previously-scheduled examination. As a result of that examination, investigators discovered videos showing that approximately four illegal overboard discharges of oily waste had occurred from Zao Galaxy‘s engine room between the last week of January 2019 and February 11, 2019.
According to the affidavit, the ship’s location data suggested that one of the illegal dumping events occurred when Zao Galaxy was approximately three nautical miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The complaint affidavit additionally alleges that Mr Dela Cruz had ordered another crewmember to perform the illegal overboard discharge at night to facilitate the emptying, cleaning, and repainting of Zao Galaxy‘s primary bilge tank prior to the coast guard’s examination. He is also alleged to have ordered another crewmember to use a flange/hose system to facilitate the dumping of the oily waste while avoiding the ship’s normal oily waste management system.
Zao Galaxy‘s oil record book contained no entries documenting these illegal discharges of oily waste.
The indictment also alleges that Mr Dela Cruz attempted to persuade a lower-level crewmember to withhold relevant information regarding the dumping from the coast guard.
If convicted, the accused individual could face up to 20 years imprisonment plus three years of supervised release and be ordered to pay a US$250,000 fine while both FGL Moon and Unix will each be made to pay a US$500,000 penalty.
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