The Greek company that owned and operated the Galissas, its captain, and chief engineer were each sentenced in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island for environmental crimes committed in February 2022, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Zeus Lines Management S.A., (Zeus) owner/operator of the Gallissas, was sentenced by United States District Judge Mary S. McElroy to pay a total monetary penalty of $2.25 million, consisting of a fine of $1,687,500 and a community service payment of $562,500.
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 the State of Rhode Island. Additionally, Zeus will serve a four-year term of probation, during which any vessels operated by the company and calling on U.S. ports will be required to implement a robust environmental compliance plan.
The Galissas’ captain and chief engineer were also sentenced to terms of probation.
During earlier proceedings in May 2023, Zeus admitted violating The Ports and Waterways Safety Act and The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The Galissas’ captain, Master Jose Ervin Mahinge Porquez, a resident of the Philippines, admitted to violating The Ports and Waterways Safety Act; Galissas’ Roberto Cayabyab Penaflor, also a resident of the Philippines, admitted violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
According to information presented in court, while the Galissas was conducting cargo operations in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in February 2022, crew members became aware that the vessel’s inert gas system became inoperable.
The inert gas system is necessary to ensure that oxygen levels within the vessel’s cargo tanks remain at safe levels and do not pose a hazardous condition. Rather than remaining in Rotterdam until the inert gas system could be repaired, Zeus and the ship’s captain, Porquez, decided to instead sail to the United States, where a spare part would be delivered upon the vessel’s arrival.
On February 11, 2022, while crossing the Atlantic, Porquez submitted a “Notice of Arrival” to the U.S. Coast Guard which failed to report the hazardous condition. On February 15, 2022, the Coast Guard sent an email in preparation for inspection which inquired about the vessel’s inert gas system. Porquez responded but did not disclose the inoperable inert gas system.
Upon arrival off the coast of Rhode Island on February 19, 2022, the vessel embarked a local ship’s pilot to sail the vessel closer to shore and take delivery of the spare part. Although the crew installed the spare part, the inert gas system remained inoperable. Porquez failed to report to the Coast Guard the hazardous condition that the vessel’s inert gas system was inoperable while the tanks were not gas free.
The following day, the U.S. Coast Guard boarded the Galissas to conduct an inspection. Only then did Porquez inform the Coast Guard that the inert gas system was inoperable. The Coast Guard immediately took measurements of the oxygen levels within the vessel’s cargo tanks, which registered more than double the maximum allowable levels. The Coast Guard then ordered that the vessel be moved further offshore so as to not endanger the port of Newport, Rhode Island.
Additionally, Zeus’ Operations Manager directed Porquez to create a logbook showing oxygen levels during the transatlantic voyage. Porquez had a logbook created that falsely indicated the cargo tanks were at safe oxygen levels when the vessel left the Netherlands and remained at safe levels during the majority of the vessel’s transit of the Atlantic Ocean. In reality, the crew had not taken any readings of the oxygen levels in the cargo tanks during the vessel’s voyage. The fraudulent logbook was presented to the U.S. Coast Guard during its inspection.
Additionally, in a separate infraction, Zeus and chief engineer Penaflor admitted that throughout the transatlantic voyage oily bilge water was illegally dumped from the Galissas directly into the ocean without being properly processed through required pollution prevention equipment. Oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of machinery on the vessel. They also admitted that these illegal discharges were not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book as required by law.
Penaflor ordered crew members under his supervision to discharge a total of approximately 9,544 gallons of oily bilge water from the vessel’s bilge holding tank directly into the ocean using the vessel’s emergency fire pump, bypassing the vessel’s required pollution prevention equipment. Penaflor instructed crew members on several occasions to not tell the Coast Guard about bypassing the pollution prevention equipment resulting in illegal discharges.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams for the District of Rhode Island, with assistance from Lieutenant Commander Paul J. Milliken from the U.S. Coast Guard District One Legal Office.
The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service investigated the case.
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