Filipino tanker crewman convicted of illegal waste dumping
OAKLAND, California – A Filipino tanker crew supervisor was found guilty of ordering the illegal dumping of oily bilge water into San Francisco Bay Area waters in 2019.
Gilbert Fajardo Dela Cruz, 38, was a first engineer of the 16,000-ton oil tanker Zao Galaxy, which docked at the Richmond, California port in February 2019 after sailing from the Philippines.
Unix Line PTE of Singapore, the ship’s operator, was fined $1.65 million after pleading guilty to a pollution charge last year.
Tankers are required to remove most of the oil from their bilges before discharging the remaining fluid into ocean waters. They normally use an oily water separator to remove oil and other wastes before storing them for disposal at onshore sites for a fee.
Prosecutors said Dela Cruz ordered crew members to use a what is known in the industry as a “magic pipe” to bypass the ship’s oil waste separator and dump bilge to sea waters directly from the tanker.
A Coast Guard investigation showed that the last recorded discharge from Dela Cruz’s tanker occurred three three miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A whistle-blower reported that Dela Cruz ordered the crew to dump waste at night. Dela Cruz claimed innocence, but after a two-week trial, a federal jury in Oakland convicted him Tuesday of violating an anti-pollution law and two counts of obstructing justice. He is free on bail and will be sentenced June 11.
His defense lawyer Brian Getz said, “Gilbert Dela Cruz has been at sea 18 years with a stellar record of service. Ten days into this voyage, circumstances conspired to ruin his career. He is a good man who has never harmed anyone in his life.”