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BSM fined $1.75 million by U.S. Court for tampering with bilge waste records

14 Feb 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday (10 February) fined Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) Pte Ltd (BSM) USD 1,750,000 and issued a 4-year probation term for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and obstructing a Coast Guard investigation. 

This is the largest fine ever imposed in the District of Hawaii for this type of offense, said the U.S. Court.

BSM must further implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan, which applies to all 38 vessels operated by the company that call on U.S. ports.

The company pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of bilge waste from the tank vessel Topaz Express, a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. 

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

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

Specifically, on three separate occasions between May and July 2019, BSM, 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 without being processed through the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment.

“The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice is charged with enforcing federal and international laws designed to protect our oceans from pollutants,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  

“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.  This case should serve as a deterrent to individuals and companies that flout our laws and pollute our oceans.”

Photo credit: Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement
Published: 14 February, 2020

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