Ship manager fined in US for discharging bilge waste

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) Pte Ltd has pleaded guilty in a US federal court to maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of bilge waste from oil products tanker Topaz Express (IMO 9552800).

US District Judge Derrick K Watson of the District of Hawaii accepted the guilty plea. Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and vessel Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan previously pleaded guilty to their involvement.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the shipmanagement company will pay a fine of $1.75m and serve a four-year term of probation. It was the largest fine ever imposed in the District of Hawaii for this type of offence. The company must also implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan which applies to all 38 vessels that call on US ports that are operated by the company.

According to court documents and information presented in court, on three separate occasions between May and July 2019, the shipmanagement company, acting through Chief Engineer Skenda Reddy and Second Engineer Padmanaban Samirajan, its employees, used a portable pneumatic pump and hose to bypass the ship’s pollution prevention equipment and discharge bilge waste directly into the ocean. They then failed to record the improper overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil record book. Additionally, during the USCG inspection of the Topaz Express, Reddy destroyed paper sounding sheets and altered a copy of the vessel’s electronic sounding log, in an effort to conceal how much bilge waste had been discharged overboard.

2009-built, Hong Kong-flagged, 27,976 gt Topaz Express is owned by Winmar Shipping, care of manager MOL Product Tankers Ltd of Tokyo, Japan. ISM manager is Bernard Schulte Singapore. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Eastern Syndicate) on behalf of Winmar Shipping Ltd.