Vessel operating company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore) has pleaded guilty in the Hawaii Federal Court for maintaining false and incomplete records of the bilge waste discharge from the tank vessel Topaz Express.

The act was considered to be a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

Hawaii district judge Derrick K Watson accepted the guilty plea.

Previously, chief engineer Skenda Reddy and vessel second engineer Padmanaban Samirajan have pleaded guilty in their involvement in the felony.

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According to the plea agreement, the company will pay a $1.75m fine along with a four-year probation period.

The court ruling marks the highest fine imposed by Hawaii for such an offence.

In addition to the fine and probation, the company will have to execute a vigorous Environmental Compliance Plan for all 38 vessels that call in the US ports.

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Bernhard had dumped bilge waste from the vessel without processing it via the pollution prevention equipment. Bilge waste is made of oil contaminants from the vessel machinery operation and cleaning.

The company said that it did not record the illegal discharges in the oil record book of the vessel as required by law.

The act was committed on three different instances from May to July 2019 when Reddy and Samirajan used a portable pneumatic pump and hose to dump the waste into the ocean.

Reddy also demolished the paper sounding sheets and changed a copy of the vessel electronic sounding log to cover up the actual waste discharge that was dumped.

US attorney Kenji M Price said: “Prosecutions like this one are important because, by holding companies accountable for the harm they cause to the ocean’s ecosystem, we do our part to protect the planet and its finite resources.

“In Hawaii, we are surrounded by the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, and companies that intentionally damage the ocean’s ecosystem must be held accountable for their criminal conduct.

“My office will continue to bring to justice companies that illegally discharge bilge waste into the ocean and then attempt to conceal their misconduct.”

In January 2019, the Dutch public prosecutor imposed a €780,000 penalty on shipowner Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II for illegally scrapping a vessel on the beaches of Alang in India.