Chief Engineer Of Car-Carrier Vessel Sentenced To Prison For Obstruction Of Justice In Marine Oil Pollution Case
Baltimore, Maryland – Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Noly Torato Vidad, age 47, of the Philippines, the Chief Engineer of the cargo vessel M/V Selene Leader, to eight months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for obstruction of justice and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein; Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division John C. Cruden; and Coast Guard Captain Kevin Kiefer, Captain of the Port of Baltimore.
Vidad was the Chief Engineer and Ireneo Tomo Tuale was the first engineer on board the vessel, which was operated by Hachiuma Steamship Co, LTD, a Japanese company, between August 2013, and the end of January 2014. The M/V Selene Leader transported vehicles to and from ports in the United States, including the Port of Baltimore.
According to his plea agreement and other court documents, in January 2014, engine room crew members of the M/V Selene Leader, under the supervision of Vidad and Tuale, transferred oily wastes between oil tanks on board the ship using rubber hoses and then illegally bypassed pollution control equipment and discharged the oily wastes overboard into the ocean. Before such waste can be discharged into the sea, the law requires that it must first pass through an oil water separator, and the operation must be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book for inspection by the United States Coast Guard.
When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Baltimore on January 31, 2014, Mr. Vidad tried to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation and hide the illegal discharges of oil by falsifying the oil record book, destroying documents, lying to Coast Guard investigators, and instructing subordinate crew members to lie to the Coast Guard.
The Hachiuma Steamship Co., LTD previously pleaded guilty to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), arising from the failure to maintain an accurate oil record book for the M/V Selene Leader. As ordered by Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake Hachiuma Steamship paid a $1.8 million penalty, $450,000 of which was made payable to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects benefitting the Chesapeake Bay, and $250,000 was awarded to a whistleblower on board the M/V Selene Leader who alerted the Coast Guard about the illegal activities on board the vessel. The company was also placed on probation for three years during which it is to develop an environmental compliance program.
Ireneo Tomo Tuale, age 63, also of the Philippines, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Baltimore on March 3, 2015.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden praised the Coast Guard Investigative Service for its work in the investigation and thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Kehoe, of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorney P. Michael Cunningham, who prosecuted the case.