SAN DIEGO – A vessel operating company and its chief engineer were sentenced in federal court Friday for environmental crimes.
In August 2022, New Trade Ship Management S.A. and Chief Engineer Dennis Plasabas pleaded guilty to maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water from the bulk carrier M/V Longshore.
The company and Plasabas admitted oily bilge water was illegally dumped from the Longshore directly into the ocean without properly processing it through required pollution prevention equipment. Oily bilge water typically contains oil, cleaning fluids, and other wastes from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel.
New Trade was sentenced to pay a fine of $1.1 million, four years of probation, and ordered to hire an independent monitor to audit environmental compliance during the period of probation. Plasabas was sentenced to 12 months in custody, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that on two separate occasions between October and December 2021, Plasabas ordered lower-ranking crew members to bypass pollution prevention equipment by transferring the oily bilge water from the vessel’s Bilge Holding Tank to the Sewage Tank using a portable pneumatic pump and hose. The oily bilge water was then dumped directly into the ocean and Plasabas failed to have them recorded in the vessel’s ‘Oil Record Book’ as required by law.
Additionally, Plasabas tried to create false and misleading electronic records, so it appeared pollution prevention equipment had been properly used.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Plasabas directed lower-ranking crew members to pump clean seawater into the vessel’s Bilge Holding Tank in the same amount as the oily bilge water that he ordered to have transferred to the Sewage Tank. Plasabas then processed the clean seawater through the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment as if it was oily bilge water.
The electronic records indicate that approximately 9,600 gallons of clean sea water were run through the pollution prevention equipment.
“[Friday’s] sentence sends a strong message that environmental crimes will have serious consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Unlawful oil discharges have a serious negative impact on the marine environment. We must safeguard our oceans by vigorous enforcement of environmental laws.”
According to sentencing documents, the use or consumption of oil, including the intentional discharge of unfiltered oily bilge water, accounts for around 37% of worldwide ocean oil pollution. Accidental spills account for 12% of oil pollution.