Korean shipper fined $950,000 in Hawaii pollution case

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii:

(HONOLULU) — United States District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi on Tuesday accepted the guilty plea of Doorae Shipping Co. Ltd., a South Korean maritime operations company, and sentenced the company to pay a fine of $750,000, a community service payment of $200,000, and a term of two years of probation for the failure to maintain an accurate oil record book, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard concerning the discharge of oil contaminated bilge water.

According to the information to which Doorae pled guilty, the operation of a marine vessel, such as B. Sky, an oil tanker ship flagged out of Vanuatu and operated by Doorae, generates large quantities of waste oil and oil-contaminated waste water. International and U.S. law requires that these vessels use pollution prevention equipment to preclude the discharge of these materials. Should any overboard discharges occur, they must be recorded in an oil record book, a log that is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Information produced to the court established that instead of running bilge water through an oil water separator, the chief engineer of B. Sky discharged over 500 gallons of oily machinery space bilge water directly into the ocean. The court approved the payment of the $200,000 community service payment, per an agreement between the government and Doorae to be donated to the National Fish and Wildlife Service Foundation to fund projects that preserve and enhance coral reefs and reef ecosystems in Hawaii.

In addition, the court also took the guilty plea of the chief engineer of B. Sky, Jeung Mun, to one charge of causing the maintenance of a faulty oil record book in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The court scheduled Mun’s sentencing for July 27.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States attorney for the District of Hawaii, said, "All maritime companies, including those that provide refueling services on the open seas, must respect the laws and the obligations of their trade, which exist to prevent the spoiling of oceans and marine habitat. This office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who violate our nation’s laws enacted to protect our oceans and environment."

"The Coast Guard has a long-standing commitment to protecting our nation's maritime environment," said Capt. Shannon Gilreath, Coast Guard captain of the port for Honolulu. "This case is a great example of interagency teamwork to hold accountable vessel operators that choose to pollute the waters around the Hawaiian Islands."

"The oceans and marine wildlife must be protected from marine companies that look to cut corners by dumping untreated waste," said Jay M. Green, special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program in Hawaii. "The defendants in this case falsified their log books in an attempt to conceal their crimes, but thanks to the thoroughness of Coast Guard and EPA investigators and the persistence of the United States Attorney’s Office, the defendants got caught. Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate that the American people will not tolerate the flagrant violation of U.S. laws."

The case was investigated by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the EPA. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson.

By Professional Mariner Staff