Ship Found Polluting Am. Samoa Waters Faces Hefty Fine
By Fili Sagapolutele
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 23, 2013) – The marine sanctuaries and coral reef preservation in American Samoa stand to benefit from a fine of $200,000 being proposed as a community service payment from another foreign company who will plead guilty at federal court for violating pollution laws in the waters surrounding the territory, according to a plea agreement filed Thursday with the federal court in Washington D.C.
Charges against Singapore-based Pacific International Lines Inc., (PIL) stems from its freighter Southern Lily 2, which was detained in American Samoa last June by the local U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) for possible violation of international pollution and U.S. laws.
At the time the vessel was detained, Lt. Steven Caskey, was in charge of the local Coast Guard marine safety detachment unit and the USCG in Honolulu, which oversees American Samoa, was also alerted about this case.
ASG Customs Office was contacted by the federal agency to place a hold on the vessel, which was finally released in early July, as the USCG investigation was carried out and the probe was later referred to the U.S. Justice Department for review and prosecution.
When the Southern Lily 2 arrived in Pago Pago on June 22, last year, USCG boarded the vessel and conducted an annual Port State Control (PSC) Safety and Security examination. It was discovered that the vessel’s Oil Water Separator (OWS) pump was inoperable and there was no entry in the Oil Record Book of the pump being inoperable, according to the plea agreement.
More problems of violation of international pollution regulations were found when the USCG expanded the examination of the 13,497 gross ton container vessel, which engages in international commercial maritime operations and provides supplies from New Zealand to Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and other South Pacific islands, said court documents.
According to the 19-page plea agreement, the defendant shall plead guilty to three counts: failure to accurately maintain an Oil Record Book; operating a vessel in the navigable waters of the United States without proper functioning pollution prevention equipment; and making and using a false writing by presenting a materially false Oil Record Book to the USCG.
Under the plea agreement, which must be accepted by the court, the defendant agrees to pay a total criminal penalty of $2.2 million of which $2 million is the criminal fine and $200,000 will be community service payment to two organizations.
One half of the payment goes to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for use in the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) in Pago Pago to support the protection and preservation of natural resources located in and adjacent to FBNMS and the other half to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects for the preservation and restoration of coral reefs in or near American Samoa.
"The explicit goal of the defendant’s required community service is to fund environmental projects and initiatives designed for the benefit, preservation and restoration of the coral reefs of American Samoa," the agreement states.
Both sides also recommended that the defendant be placed on three year’s probation under several conditions, which include that all of the vessels operated, managed and/or controlled by the company that trade in ports of the United States shall be subject to the Environmental Management System Compliance Plan - which is also being provided to the court for approval.
Provisions of the environmental plan require that just eight vessels belonging to Pacific International — identified by name in the plea agreement—operate in U.S. waters including American Samoa.
Southern Lily 2 is among the vessels allowed in U.S. waters under the agreement. The defendant is required to first notify the USCG if it wants any other PIL vessels to operate in U.S. waters.
The agreement was signed by U.S. Justice Department attorney Howard P. Steward with the Environmental Crimes Section, Cpt. Pradeep Desawar, general manager of Pacific International and the defendant’s attorney John Cox.
Court records do not show as to when the defendant will be sentenced.
This new case comes a little more than a week after New Zealand basedSanford Ltd., was sentenced by the federal court in Washington D.C. to pay total monetary judgment of $2.4 million — with $500,000 to benefit the national marine sanctuaries in American Samoa.
Sanford was found guilty last August of environmental crimes in territorial waters, along with obstruction of justice, by a federal court jury. The charges stemmed from the company’s vessel San Nikunau, fishing in waters of the territory.
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