Shipping Company Fined $1.5 Million for Pollution Case

Norway´s Solvang´s Clipper Shipping A.S, a leading provider of LPG and petrochemical tonnage, was sentenced to pay a fine of $1.5 million, after being convicted of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

Clipper admitted that oily bilge water was discharged from the Motor Tanker “Clipper Saturn” and the discharges were omitted from the Oil Record Book, the U.S. Department of Justice reports.

According to the release of the U.S. Department of Justice, office of public affairs, while the vessel was anchored near Lome, Togo on September 27 and October 1, 2021, the then-Chief Engineer directed that oily bilge water be transferred into the vessel’s gray water tank and then discharged directly overboard under the cover of darkness.

In the office of public affairs statement it is noted that in order to accomplish the discharge, the then-Chief Engineer ordered that a section of piping 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 appear that none had been removed.

The US Coast Guard undertook an inspection of the vessel in Houston, Texas, on October 28, 2021, and authorities learned about the discharges.

“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.”  

“Not only did this ship pollute waterways, 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 SDTX will seek to hold those who harm oceans and waterways 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 Captain 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 will implement an enhanced environmental compliance plan (ECP) on nine vessels. It requires independent auditing and monitoring of the vessels as well as imposing requirements to enhance the pollution prevention systems on the vessels.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.

It is worth noting that the assistant U.S. attorney, Steven Schammal for the southern district of Texas and the senior trial attorney, Kenneth E. Nelson of the environment and natural resources division’s environmental crimes section are prosecuting the case.