Shipping company ordered to pay $2.25M after discharging oily bilge off Rhode Island

Aug 9, 2023, 5:23 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The owner of a Greek oil tanker has been ordered by a U.S. judge to pay $2.25 million in fines and penalties after discharging oily bilge water into the ocean during a trans-Atlantic voyage and admitting to other environmental violations by its captain and chief engineer.

Zeus Lines Management S.A. was fined over $1.68 million at a formal sentencing Tuesday and will pay an additional $562,500 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects that benefit marine and coastal natural resources in Rhode Island, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney in the state.

The company and the two crew members had agreed to the penalties in May.

The Galissas, owned by Zeus, was transporting a cargo of diesel from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Rhode Island in February 2022 when it discharged nearly 10,000 gallons (about 37,000 liters) of bilge water, and also failed to report a hazardous condition in the cargo tanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, prosecutors said.

The Galissas’ captain, Master Jose Ervin Mahinge Porquez, previously admitted to violating the Ports and Waterways Safety Act for failing to report to the Coast Guard, prior to entering Rhode Island waters, that the system ensuring safe oxygen levels within cargo tanks was inoperable.

When the Coast Guard was informed, it found that oxygen levels registered more than double the allowable limit and ordered the vessel to move farther offshore so it did not endanger the community of Newport.

Chief Engineer Roberto Cayabyab Penaflor admitted to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for knowingly discharging untreated oily bilge water directly from the tanker into the sea, federal prosecutors said.

The bilge water was not processed through required pollution prevention equipment, and the illegal discharges were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book, as required by law, prosecutors said.

Porquez and Penaflor are residents of the Philippines.

The defendants will also serve a four-year term of probation, during which time all vessels operated by the company calling on U.S. ports will be required to adhere to a strict environmental compliance plan.

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Shipping company ordered to pay $2.25M after discharging oily bilge off Rhode Island