Prison sentence for oil discharge - Soundings Online

Prison sentence for oil discharge

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The chief engineer of a container ship gets two months for illegally dumping oil sludge in the Atlantic

The chief engineer of a container ship gets two months for illegally dumping oil sludge in the Atlantic

The chief engineer of a Hong Kong-based container ship that dumped 40 tons of oil sludge into the Atlantic in 2004 was sentenced in federal court to serve two months in prison and pay $3,500 in fines.

Mani Singh, who is 58 and from India, was sentenced in April for his part in the dumping. Singh had pleaded guilty in December to making false statements to the Coast Guard, denying knowledge about the existence and use of bypass equipment, obstructing justice by directing his subordinates to lie, concealing evidence and concealing the discharges in a false log.

“Mr. Singh is very sorry for his role in this conduct and is looking forward to returning home to India at the conclusion of his sentence,” Singh’s attorney, Joshua S. Levy, says in an e-mail.

During a routine inspection of the 663-foot MSC Elena in Boston Harbor May 16, 2005, Coast Guard officials discovered an illegal oil discharge system as well as doctored records on board the ship, according to the indictment. It charges that a steel pipe, referred to as the “magic pipe,” was used to circumvent the ship’s required pollution prevention equipment, and discharge oil sludge and oil-contaminated waste overboard.

The Hong Kong company that owns the MSC Elena, MSC Ship Management Ltd., agreed in December to pay a $10.5 million fine for dumping the oil and attempting to cover it up. MSC Ship Management, according to the federal agreement, will pay $10 million in a criminal fine and an additional $500,000 to community service projects teaching mariners how to report environmental crimes to the Coast Guard.

“I believe that MSC Ship Management recognized the magnitude of their conduct by admitting to the illegal dumping and agreeing to the penalty,” U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said in a December interview with Soundings. Officials say the fine is the largest in which a single vessel has been charged with deliberate pollution, and is the largest criminal fine paid in an environmental case in Massachusetts in at least 10 years.