Tanker Captain Pleads Guilty to Felony Obstruction in ‘Magic Pipe’ Pollution Case

Photo credit: MarineTraffic.com
Photo credit: MarineTraffic.com/V. Tonic

A Filipino ship captain has pleaded guilty to one felony count for obstructing a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into pollution crimes aboard his ship.

Genaro Anciano, 52, who was the highest ranking officer aboard the tanker Green Sky, pleaded guilty to one count of Obstruction of an Agency Proceeding in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina.

The charge stems from a Coast Guard investigation in late August 2015 into the bypass of pollution prevention equipment, including the use of a “magic device”, aka a magic pipe, aboard the Green Sky. In court papers, the defendant stated that members of the ship’s engine room, including a senior officer, admitted to illegally discharging oily bilge waste overboard. The admission occurred prior to the August 2015 Coast Guard inspection at the Port of North Charleston, during which Anciano made several false and misleading statements to the Coast Guard to cover up the illegal conduct.

The Liberia-flagged Green Sky is a 30,263 gross ton, ocean-going vessel that operates as a petroleum and chemical tanker and is owned by an entity incorporated in the Marshall Islands. Over the course of several days, the normal operation of the Green Sky generates thousands of gallons of bilge wastes that are contaminated with petroleum products and oil residues.

Both the United States and Liberia are parties to the MARPOL treaty, which regulates the overboard discharge of bilge waste. It was prohibited to discharge bilge wastes from the Green Sky without first running that effluent through the ship’s oily water separator. According to the MARPOL treaty, all overboard discharges from the vessel’s bilges had to be recorded in the Green Sky’s oil record book. A bypass of the oily water separator, which is not recorded in the oil record book, jeopardizes the accuracy and integrity of that document. It is a separate federal crime for oceangoing vessels to enter a U.S. port with a false oil record book.

Anciano’s sentencing has not been scheduled.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service with assistance from inspectors from Sector Charleston as well as Legal from U.S. Coast Guard in Miami.