Chief Engineer Sentenced to Prison Term, Reports U.S. Attorney

Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Chief Engineer of a Panamanian registered container ship was sentenced today in federal court to charges of conspiracy, obstruction, destruction of evidence, false statements and violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships in connection with the use of a secretly concealed "magic pipe" used to deliberately discharge tons of sludge and oil contaminated waste overboard.

Michael J. Sullivan, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts; Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division; Rear Admiral David P. Pekoske, Commander, First Coast Guard District; and William Schenkelberg, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, announced that MANI SINGH, age 58, of India, was sentenced to two months of incarceration, a $3,000 fine, and a $500 special assessment by U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris.

In sentencing the defendant to two months in prison, Judge Saris indicated that the term was "poetic justice" since it corresponded to the period in which the defendant supervised the dumping of tons of sludge from the vessel.

Chief Engineer SINGH pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Coast Guard denying knowledge about the existence and use of the bypass equipment, with obstructing justice by directing subordinates to lie to the Coast Guard, with concealing evidence, and with concealing the discharges in a falsified Oil Record Book, a required log in which all overboard discharges must be recorded.

This case arose out of a U.S. Coast Guard inspection in Boston Harbor on May 16, 2005, during which inspectors discovered what the defendant had referred to as a "magic pipe." The defendant had directed crewmembers to use this pipe to directly discharge oil sludge into the Atlantic Ocean. After the Coast Guard found bypass equipment hidden in a void space, SINGH directed that a printout from the ship's computer and a rough log of actual tank volumes be concealed in an effort to cover up the falsification of ship records. Coast Guard inspectors were presented with fictitious logs containing false entries claiming the use of the Oil Water Separator and omitting any reference to dumping overboard using the bypass equipment.

SINGH was the Chief Engineer on the MSC Elena, a Panamanian registered 30,971 ton container ship operated by MSC Ship Management (Hong Kong) Limited. The MSC Elena made regular voyages from ports in Europe across the Atlantic to ports in the United States, including Boston.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the MSC Elena generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an Oil Water Separator -- a required pollution prevention device. The regime also requires all overboard discharges be recorded in an Oil Record Book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard. The waste oil may be burned on board through the use of an incinerator or offloaded onto barges or shore side facilities for disposal.

On February 2, 2006, the company that owns the MSC Elena, MSC Ship Management (Hong Kong) Limited, pleaded guilty to charges that it engaged in conspiracy, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, false statements and violated the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and was sentenced to pay a fine of $10.5 million. This fine was the largest ever paid in a case involving deliberate pollution from a single vessel and the largest criminal fine paid by a defendant in an environmental case in Massachusetts history.

This investigation was conducted by the Northeast Regional Office of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Boston, U.S. Coast Guard First District Legal Office, U.S. Coast Guard Office of International and Maritime Law, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Investigations and Analysis, and U.S. Coast Guard Office of Compliance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell in U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan's Economic Crimes Unit, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke M. Reid of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Senior Trial Attorney Richard A. Udell and Trial Attorney Malinda R. Lawrence of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section.

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