Norwegian Shipping Company to Pay $2.5 Million for Illegally Discharging Oil into the Ocean
The Norwegian shipping company DSD Shipping (DSD) was sentenced to pay a total corporate penalty of $2.5 million as a result of its convictions in Mobile, Alabama, for obstructing justice, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), tampering with witnesses, and conspiring to commit these offenses.
The company was ordered to pay $500,000 of the penalty to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation to fund marine research and enhance coastal habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay.
In addition, DSD was placed on a three-year term of probation and was ordered to implement an environmental compliance plan to ensure the company’s vessels obeyed domestic and international environmental regulations in the future.
The operation of commercial marine vessels generates large quantities of waste oil, oil-contaminated waste water and garbage. International and U.S. law forbid the discharge of waste oil and garbage into the ocean and require that these vessels use pollution prevention equipment, known as an oily-water separator, to prevent the discharge of oil-contaminated waste water. Should any overboard discharges occur, they must be documented in either an oil record book or a garbage record book, logs that are regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.
According to the United States Department of Justice, the evidence demonstrated at trial that DSD operated the M/T Stavanger Blossom, a 56,000 gross ton crude oil tanker, from 2010 to 2014 without an operable oily-water separator as required by law. On Jan. 29, 2010, an internal corporate memorandum written by a vessel engineer warned DSD that the pollution prevention equipment did not work. The memo further warned that if the problem was not addressed, “some day, it might end up that someone is getting caught for polluting.” However, rather than repair or replace the oily-water separator, DSD operated the vessel illegally for the next 57 months before the conduct was identified by U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in November 2014.
As the testimony at trial revealed, DSD illegally discharged approximately 20,000 gallons of oil-contaminated waste water and plastic bags containing 270 gallons of sludge into the ocean during the last two-and-a-half months of the vessel’s operation.
The evidence also established that DSD lied about these activities by maintaining fictitious record books aboard the vessel. These records omitted the illegal discharges of oil and garbage and falsely claimed that pollution prevention equipment was used when it was not. Further, when the U.S. Coast Guard examined the ship, DSD’s senior ship officers lied about the discharges and ordered their subordinates to do the same.
In court documents filed prior to sentencing, prosecutors informed the court that despite convictions for eight felony offenses, DSD continued to deny wrongdoing in Norwegian press accounts. Prosecutors also noted that previous deficiencies in the operation of pollution prevention equipment had been identified in other DSD vessels while they were in international ports.
Three senior engineering officers employed by DSD to operate the ship were also sentenced. The chief engineer and second engineer of the vessel were both sentenced to six months imprisonment as a result of their conduct. The fourth engineer was sentenced to two months imprisonment. All three also face the loss of their marine engineering license and exclusion from employment in the merchant marine. A fourth DSD employee, Daniel Paul Dancu, pleaded guilty in October 2015, and will be sentenced on April 11, 2016.
“We will continue to aggressively prosecute and hold accountable those shipping companies who flout the laws that protect our oceans and coastal waterways from harmful vessel pollution and waste,” said Alabama Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “It is fitting that a portion of this penalty will go towards repairing and protecting the Gulf coastal environment that is threatened by these illegal discharges. This egregious abuse of the seas we share as a nation and an international community must stop.”
“The Coast Guard will not tolerate the pollution of our marine environment,” said Rear Admiral Dave Callahan for the Eighth Coast Guard District Commander. “The individuals committing environmental crimes are putting our natural resources at risk and they must be held accountable.”
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