Ship manager to pay $1.2 million in pollution case

MAY 31, 2012 — Singapore-based Target Ship Management Pte. Ltd., the operator of the M/V Gaurav Prem pleaded guilty and was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Mobile for deliberately falsifying records to conceal pollution discharges from the ship directly into the sea.

The Equasis data base lists Gaurav Prem as a 73,901 dwt bulk carrier owned by Singapore's Mercator Lines.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Target Ship Management pleaded guilty to a violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to properly maintain an oil record book as required by federal and international law, as well as making material false statements during a U.S. Coast Guard inspection of the ship at the port of Mobile in September 2011.

Payongyut Vongvichinakul, the ship's chief engineer, and Pakpoom Hanprap, the ship's second engineer, also pleaded guilty to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and are scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 2012.

The company was sentenced to pay a $1 million criminal fine along with a $200,000 community service payment to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.  The community service payment will be earmarked for projects in the Southern District of Alabama, including Mobile Bay.  Target was also sentenced to three years probation.  As a condition of the probation, ships operated or managed by Target that will or may call on the United States, must be subject to an environmental compliance plan supervised by outside auditors and the court.

According to papers filed in court, senior Target employees discharged and caused the overboard discharge of oily bilge waste from the M/VGaurav Prem on multiple occasions as the vessel sailed from South Korea to Mobile.  The vessel departed South Korea on or about July 29, 2011, and underwent a Coast Guard inspection on Sept. 21, 2011, in Mobile. The discharges were not recorded in the vessel's oil record book as required.  The deliberate overboard discharges of oily waste were accomplished through the ship's fixed bilge piping system and by using the ship's general service pump in a manner that intentionally bypassed required pollution prevention equipment, including the ship's oily water separator and oil content monitor, designed to detect and prevent discharges containing more than 15 parts per million (ppm) oil, the international standard.  The bypass system used a "spool pipe" to connect the ship's bilge system with the ship's ballast system to make the illegal discharges from the vessel's bilges and bilge holding tank.

The ship's captain, Prastana Taohim, was convicted at a jury trial on May 17, 2012, for obstructing the Coast Guard's inspection for similar but unrelated charges.  At trial, it was found that Taohim ordered the ship's chief officer to throw hundreds of plastic pipes into the ocean and not record the discharge in the ship's garbage record book as required.  Taohim then knowingly made the garbage record book available during the Coast Guard inspection on Sept. 21, 2011. The plastic pipes had previously contained insecticide and were used to fumigate a grain shipment.    The jury also found the captain guilty of one count of obstruction of justice related to covering up the pollution by creating a false and fictitious garbage log.  The captain is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 15, 2012.