Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Sanford Ltd., New Zealand’s second-biggest fishing company, was fined $1.9 million by a U.S. judge for dumping oil waste at sea and covering up its actions.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington yesterday also put the Auckland-based company on probation for three years. Sanford was ordered to pay $500,000 in community service to the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation that will benefit Fagatele Bay in America Samoa, according to the Justice Department.
“Today’s sentence sends a clear message to owners and operators of commercial vessels who illegally dump oily waste and try to cover it up,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We are committed to protecting our precious natural resources and will punish companies and individuals who ignore their obligations to our planet and future generations.”
Sanford was convicted in August of conspiracy, presenting false documents and deceiving the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a court filing. The company was acquitted of obstructing justice.
A federal jury found that a Sanford vessel, the San Nikunau, which routinely delivered tuna to American Samoa, had been discharging oily bilge waste into the sea around the island since at least 2007.
Sanford was paid more than $24 million for tuna deliveries over the past five years, according to prosecutors.
The chief engineer of the San Nikunau, James Pogue, was convicted of violating international shipping law for failing to keep an accurate record book and of obstruction of justice. Pogue, who faced a possible prison sentence of 20 years, was ordered jailed for one month and fined $6,000. He was acquitted of directing the crew to dump waste directly into the sea.
Eric Barratt, Sanford’s managing director, didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment made outside normal business hours.
The U.S. belongs to an international convention that regulates discharges of oil from ships. The U.S enforces the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships in waters under its jurisdiction, including those around American Samoa and the port of Pago Pago, where the San Nikunau ended its fishing voyages.
The U.S. charged Sanford with telling the San Nikunau’s crew to dump bilge waste directly into the ocean, rather than first passing it through pollution-control equipment, according to the indictment.
The ship’s former chief engineer, Rolando Ong Vano, pleaded guilty April 18 to concealing environmental crimes. In the plea agreement, he said it was routine practice by the company to discharge oily bilge waste into the sea, bypassing cleanup equipment. He admitted to falsifying the oil record book and lying to Coast Guard inspectors, according to court filings.
The case is U.S. v. Sanford Ltd., 11-cr-00352, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at firstname.lastname@example.org.