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Ocean vessel operator pleads guilty, agrees to pay $2M for Marine Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON, USA – Ocean vessel operating company Zeaborn Ship Management (Singapore) PTE. LTD., (Zeaborn) pleaded guilty to maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water and garbage on board the vessel Star Maia. In its plea, Zeaborn has agreed to pay a total monetary penalty of $2 million. The company’s Chief Engineer, Constancio Estuye, and Captain, Alexander Parreno, also pleaded guilty for their roles in the crimes.  

According to court documents, Zeaborn and Estuye admitted that – at least four times between June and October 2022 – they dumped over 7,500 gallons of oily bilge water from the Star Maia into the ocean without first processing the oily bilge water through required pollution prevention equipment. They also admitted that these illegal discharges were falsely recorded in the oil record book as having been made using the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment when the equipment had not been used. Oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel.

In addition to the illegal discharges of oily bilge water, Zeaborn and Parreno admitted that on at least three or four occasions between June and August 2022, they had burned garbage – including paper, plastics and oily rags – in barrels on the Star Maia’s deck. The barrels were then thrown into the ocean. This garbage burning and barrel disposal was not recorded in the vessel’s garbage record book, as required by law.

“Illegally dumping oily waste and garbage at sea poses a serious threat to the health and viability of the marine environment,” said assistant attorney General Todd Kim of the justice department’s environment and natural resources division. “This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that those who violate environmental laws are held accountable for their criminal conduct.”

“Unlawful oil discharges can cause significant harm to the marine environment,” said acting US attorney Andrew Haden for the Southern District of California. “We will continue to safeguard our oceans by vigorous enforcement of environmental laws. Today’s case is a reflection of that commitment.”

“This prosecution highlights the Justice Department and the US Coast Guard’s continued dedication in safeguarding our maritime environment against those that seek to deliberately harm our natural resources,” said sector Commander Captain James W. Spitler of the US Coast Guard’s Sector San Diego. “Illegal dumping of oil, falsification of oil record books and flagrant disregard for air emission requirements are egregious violations. These guilty pleas should serve as a reminder that the Coast Guard and our partners at the justice department will work tirelessly to hold accountable those that seek to deliberately harm the maritime environment.”

Zeaborn pleaded guilty in US District Court in San Diego to two felony violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). The plea agreement, subject to acceptance by the court, includes a $1.5 million fine and a $500,000 community service payment. The community service payment will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects to benefit marine and coastal natural resources located in or around the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Southern California. Zeaborn will also serve a four-year term of probation during which any vessels operated by the company and calling on US ports will be required to implement a robust environmental compliance plan.

Estuye and Parreno each pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the APPS for failing to accurately maintain the oil and garbage record books for the Star Maia. Sentencing for defendants Zeaborn, Estuve and Parreno is set for December 1.

The US Coast Guard Sector San Diego and the US Coast Guard Investigative Service are investigating the case. Senior trial attorney Stephen Da Ponte of the justice department’s environmental crimes section and assistant US attorney Melanie K. Pierson for the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.



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