Late on November 6, 2015, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama returned verdicts of guilty against DSD Shipping A.S. and three engineer officers from the MV STAVANGER BLOSSOM on various maritime pollution-related charges.
The government alleged that the vessel had experienced problems with its oily water separator, and as a result, the engineers used various improper means of discharging oily bilge water, including tricking the oil content sensor, rigging bypass pipes, and pumping the bilge water to the soot tank for discharge directly overboard, and then failed to correctly record their disposal of the bilge water, instead making false oil record book entries. The Government also charged some of the defendants with removing oily sludge from the fuel oil sludge tank, putting it into plastic bags, and then throwing the sludge-filled plastic bags into the sea, all without accurate oil record book or garbage record book entries. In addition, the Government alleged that the engineer officers had directed subordinates to lie to the Coast Guard about the disposal of the oil-filled plastic bags and had attempted to conceal the use of a “magic pipe” by removing it prior to the Coast Guard examination. The government also alleged that the defendants had conspired to commit the foregoing offenses. Following the presentation of the government case, the defense rested without presenting a defense.
The jury found DSD guilty of all charges except the two allegations of concealing the so-called “magic pipe.” They found Chief Engineer Gao, Second Engineer Chen, and Fourth Engineer Zhong guilty of various counts of failing to maintain an oil record book, obstruction of justice related to the false oil record book, failing to maintain a garbage record book, obstruction of justice related to the false garbage record book, and witness intimidation. Chief Engineer Gao was also convicted of the conspiracy charge, although Second Engineer Chen and Fourth Engineer Zhong were acquitted of that charge. Chief Engineer Dancu reached an as-yet undisclosed plea agreement with the Government shortly before trial. A copy of the court’s order on the trial, noting the potential issues for appeal and the verdict results, is available here.
Sentencing in the case has been set for February 11, 2016.