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Lawyer comments on M/V Ocean Hope oil discharge case

Owner and operator liable for crew’s wrongdoings even if they are acting for their own benefit.

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The following article is written by Matthew Johnston, an Associate at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP; he was commenting on the M/V Ocean Hope case where employers of crew involved in illegal oil discharge operations were convicted at nine U.S. counts over criminal liability.

On May 7, 2018, the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Oceanic Illsabe Limited affirmed the conviction and sentencing of a vessel owner and operator for violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).

Appellants, the owner and operator of the M/V OCEAN HOPE (a Greek oceangoing cargo ship), were convicted of offenses related to illegal discharges of large quantities of oily pollutants from the vessel into the ocean. Appellants violated the APPS which was created to comply with MARPOL. The Act provides that foreign ships in the navigable waters of U.S. are subject to federal discharge requirements, and the Coast Guard can assert jurisdiction outside of the U.S. when a foreign ship fails to make complete and accurate entries in the Ship’s Oil Record Book, which must be updated “without delay.”

M/V OCEAN HOPE’s Engine Department was principally responsible for violating APPS, and also made false statements to the Coast Guard, obstructed justice and tampered with witnesses. The case involved pumping unprocessed bilge water into the ocean and the use of a “magic pipe” – a hose between the vessel’s sludge pump and an illegal onboard discharge valve on the storage tank, which ultimately draws the sludge into the ocean. One of the Engine Department’s crew videotaped and photographed the “magic pipe” arrangement.

The MV OCEAN HOPE’s owner and operator asserted that they were not vicariously criminally liable for any of the violations revealed by the Coast Guard, and that it was all the Engine Department crewmembers’ fault. They said that they had hired qualified crew that could reasonably be relied upon and the misconduct was unknown to owner and operator. However, the owner and operator were convicted on nine counts. The appellate court upheld the vicarious criminal liability noting that the Engine Department crew met the standard that “the employee or agent acted within the scope of the employment with the intent to benefit the corporation.” Those responsible were employed to carry out pollution prevention for the ship but consistently ordered subordinate crew to violate MARPOL and APPS along with various other criminal statutes and regulations. Further the owner and operator had knowledge of “multiple oddities” from weekly updates of the Oil Record Book.

The Court also noted that as long as “the corporate agent intends, at least in part, to benefit his employer, the entity can be criminally liable even if the agent was also acting for his own benefit.” The Court found that this standard was met when, for example, the supervisors of the Engine Department told the crew not to tell the Coast Guard investigators about illegal discharge, and in that way intended to prevent the Coast Guard from finding deficiencies onboard the M/V OCEAN HOPE which may cause the vessel to be detained or delayed.

This case underscored the serious nature of falsifying Oil Record Books and illegal discharges into the ocean. It also highlights the scope of the U.S.’s jurisdiction to protect the waters and enforce U.S. law. The full decision can be found here.

Manifold Times comment: Singapore shipping firm Hai Soon Ship Management, the sister firm of Singapore-based bunker tanker owner Hai Soon Diesel & Trading, was recently fined $1 million in regards to APPS.

Published: 16 July, 2018
 

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MMEA detains Malaysian-registered vessels in illegal STS oil transfer operation

Two cargo ships were caught for illegally transferring diesel without approval near Pulau Mantanani, Sabah; total seizure of vessels and diesel was estimated to be about MYR 80,000.

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MMEA detains Malaysian-registered vessels in illegal STS oil transfer operation

The Sabah and Labuan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Tuesday (16 July) detained two cargo ships for illegally transferring diesel without approval near Pulau Mantanani, Sabah.

The two ships were spotted by Arau maritime ship (KM Arau) during a patrol.

Sabah and Labuan MMEA director Maritime First Admiral Datuk Che Engku Suhaimi Che Engku Daik siad the two ships were suspiciously in close proximity.

KM Arau then approached the two vessels believed to be carrying out a ship-to-ship oil transfer.

“Upon inspection both vessels were found to be registered in Malaysia and were operated by eight Malaysian crew,” he said.

Further investigation found both were unable to provide documentation to transfer diesel.

Both ships were brought in for probe under Control of Supplies Act 1961, Customs Act 1987 and Petroleum Development Act 1974.

The total seizure of vessels and diesel was estimated to be about MYR 80,000 (USD 17,141.63 USD).

 

Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 18 July 2024

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Singapore: Fake oil and bunker trader cheats woman SGD 93,000, sentenced to jail

Victim lodged a police report on 29 May 2023 and authorities arrested Muhammad Sharul Bin Anoor on 8 November 2023; to date, Sharul has repaid SGD 67 to the victim.

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RESIZED state courts

A 30-year-old former deliveryman posing as an oil and bunker trader received a 19-month jail sentence at the State Court of Singapore on Friday (12 July) after pleading guilty to seven cheating charges.

Sometime in 2022, Muhammad Sharul Bin Anoor (Sharul) created a fake profile with the name “Melcolm Tan” and met the 34-year-old victim in late August 2022 on an online dating website; they initially communicated over Telegram, showed documents obtained from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

Falsely representing himself as an oil and bunker trader by occupation, “Melcolm” on 26 August 2022 told the victim she could invest in his shipping imports and make guaranteed returns of 3.5% by January 2023.

“Melcolm” told the victim that he would bear any losses, and that she would get her monies back. The victim transferred SGD 5,000 to “Melcolm” via Paynow through his mobile number on the same day but noticed the Paynow number was registered to Sharul after the first transfer.

Following, the victim messaged Sharul through WhatsApp using his Paynow number, but to maintain the deception Sharul lied that he was “Shan” who was an employee of “Melcolm” and would act as an intermediary between the victim and “Melcolm” going forward.

The victim believed Sharul and continued corresponding with “Shan”. Between August 2022 and March 2023, the victim was dishonestly induced to transfer a total of SGD 92,510 to Sharul. She used SGD 50,000 from her own personal savings and took out loans for the remaining amounts.

Sharul dissipated the monies on his renovation, car and credit card repayments. Details of several transactions are below:

Date Amount transferred to Sharul Fales representations by “Shan”
2 September 2022 SGD 8,000 Claimed “Melcolm” lost his credit card and needed funds to pay for his hotel expenses in Indonesia and his return flight to Singapore.
15 September 2022 SGD 6,000 Claimed “Melcolm” wanted to transfer the funds to “Shan”, and asked the victim to transfer the monies on his behalf.
11 October 2022 SGD 20,000 Claimed “Melcolm” needed the funds to close a deal as his friends had cheated him of $340,000.
16 November 2022 SGD 10,000 Claimed “Melcolm” needed the funds to pay customs duties to avoid being arrested.
19 December 2022 SGD 9,500 Claimed “Melcolm” needed the funds to pay his fines so that his lawyer could secure the release of his assets.
22 December 2022 SGD 7,000 Claimed “Melcolm” needed to transfer the funds to “Shan” to help with “Shan”s loans.

From March 2023, the victim attempted to meet “Melcolm” and “Shan” on various occasions to discuss the repayment of the monies, but Sharul repeatedly failed to turn up for these meetings.

Growing suspicious, the victim lodged a police report on 29 May 2023; Sharul was eventually traced and arrested on 8 November 2023.  To date, Sharul has repaid SGD 67 to the victim.

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 16 July 2024

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Singapore: Ex-Director of Inter-Pacific Petroleum appeals High Court decision

Dr Goh Jin Hian reportedly appealed against the decision by the High Court that found him to be responsible for up to USD 146 million of the company’s total USD 156 million loss.

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Singapore High Court

The former Director of defunct Singapore bunker supplier Inter-Pacific Petroleum (IPP) has reportedly appealed against the decision by the High Court that found him to be responsible for up to USD 146 million of the company’s total USD 156 million loss, according to media outlets on Thursday (11 July).

Manifold Times previously reported IPP Judicial Managers (JMs) Deloitte Singapore, the plaintiffs, on April 2023 initiated a legal suit against former company Director Dr Goh Jin Hian, the defendant, suing him for over USD 156 million over losses due to alleged breach of his Director’s duties.

The Singapore branch of Maybank is looking to recover an amount of USD 88.3 million while Societe Generale (SocGen) is owed USD 81.3 million that they allege to be due to Dr Goh’s negligence as Director.

Dr Goh has said it is not the responsibility of the Director to authenticate documents from management and he disputes against the banks’ own due diligence and credit risk assessment.

“I am satisfied having considered the evidence and submissions that the plaintiff’s claim has been made out as to the liability of the defendant,” wrote Judge Aedit Abdullah in his Brief Remarks on 24 January obtained by Manifold Times.

Judge Aedit pointed out Dr Goh should have carried out his duties as Director and inquired about the financial position of IPP upon knowing of three ‘red flags’ incurred.

Of the total USD 156 million claimed by the IPP JMs, Judge Aedit concluded claims for the full extent of the sum of USD 146 million (exact: USD 146,047.099.60 and the interest claimed) should be allowed.

Related: Singapore: Ex-Director of Inter-Pacific Petroleum found responsible for up to USD 146 million of firm’s loss

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 15 July 2024

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