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Greek oil tanker illegally dumped nearly 10k gallons of contaminants off R.I. coast

The tanker’s owner, Zeus Lines Management S.A., the vessel’s captain and its chief engineer also lied to the US Coast Guard, court documents show. Zeus is ordered to pay a $2.25 million penalty.

The Galissas was spotted just north of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in Newport, R.I. in March 2022.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A Greek company that owned and operated an oil tanker called the Galissas, the captain, and chief engineer committed several environmental crimes, according to the Department of Justice, including illegally dumping nearly 10,000 gallons oily bilge water, while off the coast of Rhode Island in February 2022.

Zeus Lines Management S.A., also known as Zeus, the owner and operator of the Galissas, was ordered on Tuesday by US District Judge Mary S. McElroy to pay a penalty of $2.25 million. Of that, approximately $562,500 will be directed to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects to benefit marine and coastal natural resources in Rhode Island. Zeus was also ordered to serve a four-year term of probation, which bars any of the company’s vessels from US ports until it implements a “robust environmental compliance plan.”


According to court documents, the Galissas was conducting cargo operations in the Netherlands in February 2022 when crew members became aware that the vessel’s gas system became inoperable. The system is necessary to ensure that the oxygen levels within the vessel’s cargo tanks remain at safe levels and do not pose a hazardous condition. But rather than remaining in the Netherlands until the system was repaired, the company and the ship’s captain, Master Jose Ervin Mahinge Porquez, decided to sail to the United States, where a spare part would be delivered upon its arrival.

During the transatlantic voyage toward Rhode Island, company executives and the vessel’s chief engineer, Philippines resident Roberto Cayabyab Penaflor, illegally dumped oily bilge water from the Galissas directly into the ocean without properly processed it. According to court documents, Penaflor had ordered his crew to discharge nearly 10,000 gallons of oily bilge water from the vessel’s holding tank using the ship’s emergency fire pump, which bypassed the proper equipment and resulted in illegal discharge.


This kind of oily bilge water typically contains oil contamination from the operation and cleaning of the ship’s machinery, according to the Justice Department.

On Feb. 11, 2022, while the tanker crossed the Atlantic, Porquez submitted a “Notice of Arrival” to the US Coast Guard, and failed to report the hazardous condition. Days later, the Coast Guard sent an email in preparation for inspection, which inquired about the tanker’s gas system. Porquez responded but did not disclose the inoperable system, according to documents filed in court.

The tanker arrived off the coast of Rhode Island on Feb. 19, 2022, and the vessel engaged a local ship’s pilot to sail the vessel closer to shore. The crew installed the spare part, but the inert gas system “remained inoperable,” according to the Justice Department. During this time, the tanks were not gas free. The Coast Guard boarded the tanker for an inspection the following day, the first time Porquez informed officers of the inoperable system.

When the Coast Guard measured the oxygen levels within the vessel’s cargo tanks, it registered as “more than double the maximum allowable levels,” according to a news release from US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha’s office. The Coast Guard moved the vessel further offshore to not endanger the port of Newport.

Zeus’ operations manager had directed Porquez to create a logbook showing the vessel’s oxygen levels, but Porquez had “falsely indicated” that the cargo tanks were at safe oxygen levels throughout the vessel’s journey from the Netherlands until it was inspected by the Coast Guard. This fraudulent logbook was provided to the Coast Guard’s officers during its inspection, court documents say.


During its time in Rhode Island, the ship had spurred headlines in mid-March for its large freshly painted “Z” on its smokestack. At the time, Russia had just invaded Ukraine and supporters of the Kremlin were painting a “Z” on vehicles and ships around the globe. Rhode Islanders took to social media, posting photos of the ship anchored just north of the Pell Bridge. But the painted “Z” was a logo for Zeus.

The Coast Guard investigated the case, and Zeus executives and Porquez admitted to violating The Ports and Waterways Safety Act. The company and Penaflor admitted to violating The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.