Shipping company fined $1.5M for oil record book offense
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
HOUSTON – Clipper Shipping A.S. has been convicted of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
Clipper admitted that oily bilge water was discharged from the Motor Tanker Clipper Saturn. As part of the plea, they acknowledged the discharges were omitted from the Oil Record Book.
Immediately after the plea today, U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett ordered the company to pay a $1.5 million fine.
On Sept. 27 and Oct. 1, 2021, the Clipper Saturn was anchored near Lome, Togo. The chief engineer at the time directed oily bilge water to be transferred into the vessel’s gray water tank and then discharged directly overboard under the cover of darkness. In order to accomplish the discharge, a section of piping had to be removed and a hose installed onto the eductor system. This arrangement was used to discharge the gray water tank directly overboard. Personnel then re-installed and repainted the piping in the area in order to make it appear that none had been removed. Authorities learned about the discharges during an inspection of the vessel in Houston Oct. 28, 2021.
“Not only did this ship pollute the water, but they tried to cover it up,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani of the Southern District of Texas (SDTX). “To put it simply, Clipper Saturn wanted to get rid of dirty oily water from their ship. Instead of filtering out the hazardous elements, as required, they decided to cut costs and just release the whole contaminated mess into the sea. Unfortunately for them, they got caught when they docked in Houston. The fine imposed today tells them that there is a bigger cost to endangering our citizens and the environment in which they live, and that the Southern District of Texas will seek to hold those who harm oceans and waterways accountable.”
“We take seriously the crimes of illegally discharging oily bilge water at sea and falsifying records to obstruct the United States’ ability to investigate those discharges,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The U.S. Coast Guard must be able to rely on truthful records on board ships, and the Department of Justice will continue to ensure polluters are held fully accountable.”
“The Coast Guard is committed to protecting our oceans and waterways from those who deliberately jeopardize the well-being and safety of the environment and the public,” said Coast Guard Capt. Keith Donohue, commander, Sector Houston-Galveston. “The intentional pollution of U.S. waters is a serious violation that we simply will not tolerate. We will continue to work with the Department of Justice and our federal, state and local partners to hold accountable those who choose to endanger our natural resources.”
As part of the plea agreement, Clipper Shipping A.S. will implement an enhanced environmental compliance plan (ECP) on nine vessels. The ECP requires independent auditing and monitoring of the vessels as well as additional conditions to enhance the pollution prevention systems.
This U.S. Coast Guard – Houston Sector and U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Schammel from the SDTX and Senior Trial Attorney Kenneth E. Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice prosecuted the case.
Updated July 6, 2023