In a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Singapore based Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL) was yesterday sentenced to pay a fine of $12,000,000 after pleading guilty 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 on the M/V Pac Antares. In addition to the fine, U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan 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.
PCL pleaded guilty to a total of eight felony offenses across three judicial districts – the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Southern District of Texas, and the Eastern District of Louisiana.
In pleading guilty, PCL admitted that crew members onboard the M/V Pac Antares, a 27,659 dwt 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 approximately April 2019 until the vessel arrived in Morehead City, N.C., 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 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.
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 $2,100,000.
In 2019, 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 evidence that oily waste and garbage had been discharged from the vessel via a configuration of drums, flexible hoses and flanges to bypass the vessel’s oily water separator.
Examiners also discovered that oily waste had been discharged through a laundry sink which subsequently discharged directly overboard or through the vessel’s sewage system. Examiners discovered the sewage system was contaminated with oil. Crewmembers also admitted that bags filled with oily rags were thrown over the side of the ship. These discharges were knowingly not recorded in the M/V Pac Antares’s oil record book and garbage record book when they were presented to the U.S. Coast Guard during the vessel’s inspection. The examiners also found over 60,000 gallons of oily water being stored in the “duct keel” which took several days and a third-party contractor to properly clean out.