A federal grand jury in Mobile, Alabama has returned a seven-count indictment against a Norwegian shipping company and four of its employees with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), conspiracy, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in relation to the use of a so-called ‘magic pipe’.
Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab AS, or DSD Shipping for short, is a Norwegian-based shipping company that operates the oil tanker MT Stavanger Blossom, which is used in the international transportation of crude oil. Also indicted were four engineering officers employed by DSD Shipping to work aboard the vessel – Daniel Paul Dancu of Romania, Bo Gao of China, Xiaobing Chen of China, and Xin Zhong of China.
According to the indictment, in 2014, DSD Shipping and four crewmembers conspired to bypass pollution prevention equipment aboard the MT Stavanger Blossom and to conceal the direct discharge of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water from the vessel into the sea. The crewmembers allegedly used a bypass pipe, also known as a ‘magic pipe’, to circumvent the ship’s pollution prevention equipment to dump the oily water. They also filled plastic bags with waste oil from a sludge tank aboard the vessel and then discarded the oil-filled plastic bags overboard.
The indictment also alleges that prior to an inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard, Chen ordered crewmembers to remove the bypass pipe, install a new pipe and repaint the piping to hide the illegal discharges. Chen and Zhong then ordered crewmembers to lie to the U.S. Coast Guard and instructed them to say that no plastic bags containing waste oil were discarded overboard, that all plastic bags remained aboard the vessel and to provide the incorrect quantity of bags generated from the cleaning of the sludge tank. In an effort to further hide the illegal discharges, DSD Shipping and its employees maintained a fictitious oil record book that failed to record the disposal, transfer, or overboard discharge of oil from the vessel. The oil record book also contained false entries stating that pollution prevention equipment had been used when it had not.
DSD Shipping and the engineering officers were charged with violating the APPS for failing to record overboard discharges in the vessel’s oil record book and garbage record book and with obstruction of justice and witness tampering for presenting false documents and deceiving the Coast Guard during an inspection.
If convicted, DSD Shipping could be fined up to $500,000 per count, in addition to other possible penalties. Dancu, Gao, Chen and Zhong face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice charges.