Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson (619) 546-7976
SUMMARY OF PRESS RELEASE – September 9, 2022
SAN DIEGO – New Trade Ship Management SA, a ship operating company, and the ship’s chief engineer Dennis Plasabas were convicted today in federal court of environmental crimes.
The company and its engineer pleaded guilty on August 9, 2022 to keeping false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water from the bulk carrier Longshore. New Trade was ordered to pay a fine of $1.1 million, a four-year probationary period and to hire an independent monitor to verify environmental compliance during the probationary period; Plasabas was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
In pleading guilty, New Trade and Plasabas admitted that oily bilge water had been illegally dumped from the Skidding directly into the ocean without being properly treated by the required pollution prevention equipment. Oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of ship machinery. The defendants also admitted that these illegal discharges were not recorded in the ship’s oil log book, as required by law.
Specifically, on two occasions between October and December 2021, Chief Engineer Plasabas, who was employed by New Trade, ordered lower-ranking crew members to use a portable pneumatic pump and hose to bypass the pollution prevention equipment by transferring oily bilge water from the ship. Bilge Holding Tank to the ship’s sewage tank, from where it was discharged directly into the ocean.
Plasabas then ensured that the master of the vessel did not record these improper transfers and overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil log book. Additionally, to create a false and misleading electronic record as if pollution prevention equipment had been properly used, Plasabas ordered lower-ranking crew members to pump clean seawater into the tank of retained from the ship in the same quantity as the quantity of oily bilge water. which he had ordered transferred to the sewage tank. Plasabas then treated the clean seawater through the ship’s pollution prevention equipment as if it were oily bilge water to make the pollution prevention equipment appear to be used correctly when in fact it was not. Electronic records indicate that approximately 9,600 gallons of clean seawater passed through pollution prevention equipment.
“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that environmental crimes will have serious consequences,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman. “Illegal oil discharges have a serious negative impact on the marine environment. We must protect our oceans by vigorously enforcing environmental laws. Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the U.S. Coast Guard for their excellent work on this case.
According to the sentencing documents, the use or consumption of oil, including the intentional discharge of unfiltered oily bilge water, accounts for approximately 37% of the world’s oil pollution in the oceans. By contrast, accidental spills from ships account for 12% of oil pollution. As identified by the National Academy of Sciences, the result of these statistics is that more than 99% of the estimated volume of operational releases are related to non-compliance, as existing regulations restrict or limit operational releases of oil. at 15 ppm maximum.
Marine mammal and bird species, which must regularly cross the air-water interface to breathe, are particularly vulnerable to exposure to hydrocarbons. Effects of oil on ocean life can include oil ingestion, accumulation of contaminants in tissues, DNA damage, impacts on immune function, cardiac dysfunction, mass death of eggs and larvae, for example, in fish, loss of buoyancy and insulation for birds, and inhalation of vapours. A 2002 study in Canada estimated that the intentional release of oil from ships kills about 300,000 seabirds a year in Atlantic Canada – an annual seabird mortality equal to that caused by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.
This matter was investigated by the United States Coast Guard Sector San Diego and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson for the Southern District of California and Senior District Attorney Stephen Da Ponte of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section.
DEFENDANTS Case number 22cr1802-JO
New Trade Ship Management SA
Chief Engineer Dennis Plasabas Age: 48 Philippines
Prevention of Pollution from Ships Act – Title 33, USC, Section 1908(a)
Maximum penalty: six years in prison and $250,000 fine (individual); Five years probation and a fine equal to the greater of $500,000 or twice the amount of the gross gain or loss (organization).
US Coast Guard