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Cargo ship engineer Dennis Plasabas gets one year in prison for dumping oil in ocean; New Trade Ship Management fined $1.1 million

Cargo ship engineer gets one year in prison for dumping oil in ocean
David Gotfredson September 12, 2022

Whistleblower video turned over to U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — A cargo ship engineer has been sentenced to one year in federal prison for intentionally dumping oil into the ocean.

Cell phone video of the illegal activity was recorded by a whistleblower crew member, who is now set to receive more than a half million dollars for reporting the incident.

The video showed oil-contaminated bilge water being illegally pumped through a hose into a sewage tank onboard the ship. The oily water was then dumped into the ocean while the bulk cargo ship, named Longshore, was on the high seas.

The whistleblower recorded the video at the end of 2021 and turned it over the U.S. Coast Guard when the Longshore made port in San Diego, according to federal prosecutors.

The ship’s chief engineer, Dennis Plasabas, and the company managing the ship, New Trade Ship Management based in Greece, both pleaded guilty in August to falsifying records related to the oil dumping at sea.

Last week, Plasabas, 48, was sentenced to a year in prison. He remains free on bond in San Diego, where he will self-surrender in six weeks, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson.

New Trade Ship Management was ordered to pay a fine of $1.1 million.

Half of the fine will go to the whistleblower crew member who recorded the video and turned it over to authorities, Pierson said.

The intentional discharge of unfiltered, oily bilge water, accounts for 37 percent of worldwide ocean oil pollution, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. Accidental spills from ships account for 12% of oil pollution, the office said.

The motive for dumping the oil at sea is the shipping company avoids the expense of having to treat the pollution on board, or offload the contaminated water when the ship comes back to port.

In addition to the $1.1 million fine, New Trade will be on probation for four years. The company will have to foot the bill for audits and environmental inspections during the probationary period.