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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Former Chief Engineer of South Pacific Tuna Vessel Pleads Guilty to Covering up Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON – A former chief engineer from the tuna fishing vessel San Nikunau pleaded guilty today in federal court to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), announced Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno and U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.

Rolando Ong Vano served as the chief engineer on the vessel, which was owned and operated by Sanford Ltd., a New Zealand company, during several fishing trips in the South Pacific between March 2006 and July 2011.  Sanford Ltd. and another prior chief engineer from the vessel have been charged with obstruction of justice and APPS violations, and are currently awaiting trial. 

According to the plea agreement, it was routine practice onboard the vessel to discharge directly into the sea oily bilge waste from the engine room and other areas of the vessel without using required pollution prevention equipment.  Before such waste can be discharged into the sea, it must first pass through an oil water separator, and the operation must be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book. 

Vano admitted to falsifying the oil record book and lying to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors that the oil water separator was used on the vessel when in fact it was not.  The Coast Guard discovered the violations during an inspection of the vessel in American Samoa in July 2011.  Sentencing in this matter is currently scheduled for September 2012.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

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