Singapore's PCL fined US$12m for pollution violations
SINGAPORE's Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL) that owns subsidiaries engaged in international shipping has been fined US$12 million after pleading guilty to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice, and for a failure to notify the US Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on the m/v Pac Antares
07 December 2020 - 19:00
The Singapore-based shipowner pleaded guilty to a total of eight felony offences across three judicial districts - the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Southern District of Texas, and the Eastern District of Louisiana. Apart from the fine, PCL was also placed on probation for a period of four years and ordered to implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan as a special condition of probation.
In pleading guilty, PCL admitted that crew members onboard the 20,471 gross-tonne, 586-foot ocean-going commercial bulk carrier Pac Antares, 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 approximately April 2019 until the vessel arrived in Morehead City, North Carolina, on September 29, 2019. PCL also admitted that the crew discharged oily garbage and plastic overboard and falsified the garbage record book.
PCL also 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 US Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.
The chief engineer, Wenguang Ye, pleaded guilty to falsifying the oil record book, and was fined $5,500 and banned from entering the US for one year after choosing to cooperate in the investigation. In 2008, the Pac Antares was involved in another prosecution in Wilmington, North Carolina, for concealing the overboard discharge of oily bilge water and was fined $2.1 million.
'This kind of deliberate evasion of our pollution control laws will not be tolerated,' said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Brightbill of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. 'The Environmental Crimes Section proudly works hand-in-hand with US Attorneys Offices and law enforcement partners around the country to investigate and prosecute the intentional violation of our laws that protect our oceans by commercial ship owners, operators, and personnel. It's also essential that we demand the safe operation of ships in our ports.'
'The defendants in this case knowingly, intentionally and illegally discharged oily waste and other garbage into the waters along the North Carolina coast,' said US 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.'
'US Attorneys all over the country work together enforcing federal laws,' said US Attorney Ryan K Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. 'Some laws, like environmental crimes, can impact multiple districts at the same time. Foreign ships, because of corruption, incompetence or parsimony that dump their sewage or oil bilge in our waters will be held accountable. The Houston ship channel is a vital engine to the world's economy, and it requires all vessels to respect our laws if they want access to our port.'
'Safeguarding the environment is one of the highest priorities for the Department of Justice,' said US Attorney Peter G Strasser for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 'The US Attorney's Office is committed to continue working with its federal partners to investigate and hold entities accountable when they neglect their professional and legal obligations and threaten the environment, which places the public and the ecosystem in Southeastern Louisiana at risk.'
'The Coast Guard remains dedicated to preserving the marine environment and protecting our living marine resources,' said Rear Admiral Laura Dickey, Coast Guard Fifth District Commander. 'The results of this case showcase the commitment and meticulous efforts of our marine safety professionals, pollution responders and Coast Guard agents in North Carolina, and the great partnership we share with the Department of Justice.'
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