Japanese Operator to Pay $1.8 Million Over ‘Magic Pipe’

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

The operator of a car carrier calling at Port of Baltimore has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay $1.8 million over charges stemming from the use of a so-called magic pipe.

The U.S. Justice Dept. reports that Hachiuma Steamship Co., LTD, or Japan, plead guilty last week to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) over the failure to maintain an accurate oil record book concerning the illegal disposal of oil residue and bilge water overboard from the MV Selene Leader.

Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Hachiuma Steamship to pay $1.8 million, including $450,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $250,000 to a whistleblower on board the vessel who alerted the Coast Guard and provided a video showing the illegal activity which aided in the investigation.

Hachiuma Steamship Co, LTD operated the MV Selene Leader between August 2013 and the end of January 2014 transporting vehicles to and from ports in the United States, including the Port of Baltimore.

According to the plea agreement, in January 2014, engine room crew members of the vessel under the supervision of the vessel’s chief engineer and first engineer 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. On January 29th, the MV Selene Leader arrived in Baltimore with an oil record book that failed to include entries reflecting the discharges. The Coast Guard boarded the ship for inspection the next day and found that chief engineer had tried to 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 chief engineer, identified as Noly Torato Vidad, age 47, and first engineer Ireneo Tomo Tuale, age 63, both of the Philippines, previously pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Baltimore on February 20 and March 3, 2015, respectively.

“The Coast Guard is trying to send a message to the maritime industry that environmental compliance is not optional and that deliberate violators will be apprehended. The sentence fits the crime because it includes a requirement that these defendants develop and implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program that will be ensured by outside auditors. Companies that get caught can expect a much closer look,” said Coast Guard Captain Kevin Kiefer, Captain of the Port of Baltimore.