Car Carrier Chief Engineer Sentenced to Prison Over ‘Magic Pipe’

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February 24, 2015

MV Selene Leader. File Photo (c) MarineTraffic/A. Modersitski

The chief engineer of a car carrier has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland to obstruction of justice and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced chief engineer Noly Torato Vidad, 47, of the Philippines, to eight months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, after he plead guilty to the charges last November.

Vidad was the chief engineer of the Panama-flagged MV Selene Leader, operated by Hachiuma Steamship Co LTD, a Japanese company, between August 2013 and the end of January 2014.

According to his plea agreement, in January 2014, engine crewmembers under the supervision of Vidad and first engineer Ireneo Tomo Tuale used a so-called ‘magic pipe’ to illegally bypass the ship’s pollution control equipment and discharged the oily wastes overboard into the ocean. When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Baltimore on January 31, 2014, 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) in relation to the incident and was ordered to pay a $1.8 million penalty, $450,000 of which was made payable to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and another $250,000 was awarded to a whistleblower on board the M/V Selene Leader who alerted the Coast Guard. The company was also placed on probation for three years during which it is to develop an environmental compliance program.

First engineer Ireneo Tomo Tuale, 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.

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