December 2, 2020, by Jasmina Ovcina
Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL), a Singapore-based company whose subsidiaries are engaged in international shipping, was fined $12 million for concealing illegal discharges of oily water and garbage and a hazardous condition.
On December 1, the company pleaded guilty before the U.S. federal court in New Bern, North Carolina to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice, and for a failure to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition.
PCL pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses across three judicial districts – the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Southern District of Texas, and the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The court placed the company on probation for a period of four years, and ordered it to implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation.
In pleading guilty, the company admitted that crew members onboard the M/V Pac Antares, a 20,471 gross-ton bulk carrier knowingly failed to record in the vessel’s oil record book the overboard discharge of oily bilge water and oil waste without the use of required pollution-prevention equipment, from April 2019 to September 2019.
On Sept. 29, 2019, the M/V Pac Antares arrived in Morehead City, North Carolina. A crewmember walked off the ship and informed a Customs and Border Protection officer that he had information about illegal discharges that had taken place on the vessel.
The U.S. Coast Guard was sent that information and conducted an inspection and examination. Examiners discovered and seized a large trove of evidence that oily waste and garbage had been discharged from the vessel to include a configuration of drums, flexible hoses and flanges to bypass the vessel’s oily water separator.
It was also discovered that oily waste had been discharged through a laundry sink which subsequently discharged directly overboard or through the vessel’s sewage system. The sewage system was contaminated with oil.
PCL also admitted that the crew discharged oily garbage and plastic overboard and falsified the garbage record book.
Furthermore, the company admitted that a large space along the keel of the vessel, known as the duct keel, was being used to store oily waste which constituted a hazardous condition under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act and it should have been immediately reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.
The Chief Engineer, Wenguang Ye, pleaded guilty to falsifying the oil record book, and was sentenced to a fine of $5,500 and banned from entering the United States for one year after choosing to cooperate in the investigation.
“The defendants in this case knowingly, intentionally and illegally discharged oily waste and other garbage into the waters along the North Carolina coast,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
“That coastline is among the great natural treasures of this country and we are committed to its protection. To that end, we will hold companies and individuals responsible when they fail to follow federal law designed to protect these valuable resources.”
In 2008, the M/V Pac Antares was involved in another prosecution in Wilmington, North Carolina, for concealing the overboard discharge of oily bilge water and assessed a total criminal penalty of $2.1 million.