Monday, March 2, 2020

Yet Another 'Magic Pipe' Case as Tanker Shipping Company Pleads Guilty to Pollution

Deliberate Act Fouls US Territorial Waters - Officer Faces Decades of Prison Time
Shipping News Feature

US – SINGAPORE – Unix Line, a Singapore-based shipping company, has pleaded guilty in federal court to yet another violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in what is often referred to as a 'magic pipe' incident.

In pleading guilty, Unix Line admitted that its crew members on board the Zao Galaxy, a 16,408 gross-tonne, ocean-going motor tanker, knowingly failed to record in the vessel’s oil record book the overboard discharge of oily bilge water without the use of required pollution-prevention equipment, during the vessel’s voyage from the Philippines to Richmond, California.

According to the plea agreement, Unix Line is the operator of the Zao Galaxy the owner being FGL Moon Marshall Limited, a Marshall Islands company, which set sail from the Philippines on January 21, 2019, heading toward Richmond, California, carrying a cargo of palm oil. On February 11, 2019, the Zao Galaxy arrived in Richmond, where it underwent a US Coast Guard inspection and examination.

Examiners alleged that during the voyage, a Unix Line-affiliated ship officer, Gilbert Dela Cruz, who was the First Assistant Engineer on the vessel, who was responsible for making entries into the ship’s Oil Record Book and for the operation of the ship’s equipment used for treatment and discharge of oil-contaminated water, had instructed a crew member to use a flange/hose system (the infamous ‘magic pipe’) to facilitate the dumping of the oily waste while avoiding the ship’s normal oily waste management system.

During the examination, investigators discovered videos showing that approximately four illegal overboard discharges of oily waste had occurred from the Zao Galaxy’s engine room between the last week of January 2019 and February 11, 2019. According to the affidavit, the ship’s location data suggested that one of the illegal dumping events occurred when the Zao Galaxy was approximately just three nautical miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The allegation was that Filipino Dela Cruz, having directed crew members to discharge oily bilge water overboard, using the magic pipe to bypass the vessel’s oil water separator, had ordered another crew member to perform the illegal overboard discharge at night to facilitate the emptying, cleaning, and repainting of the Zao Galaxy’s Primary Bilge Tank prior to the Coast Guard’s examination. The discharges were knowingly not recorded in the Zao Galaxy’s oil record book.

Unix Line is a ship management subsidiary of MOL Chemical Tankers, which in turn is a Singapore-based subsidiary of the MOL Group. Sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 20 before US District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar in Oakland, California. Four days prior to this a hearing, again before Judge Tigar, is expected to begin against FGL Moon Marshall and thirty seven year old Dela Cruz, who could potentially face decades of jail time for his involvement.