Japanese Company Pleads Guilty to Illegal Dumping

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Karin J. Immergut, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, Debra W. Yang, United States Attorney for the Central District of California, Donald P. Sims, Special Agent in Charge of the Portland Area Office, Criminal Investigation Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA-CID), United States Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jeffrey Garrett, Commander 13th Coast Guard District, and United States Coast Guard Captain Paul Jewell, Captain of the Port, Portland, announced today that Fujitrans Corporation, a Japanese transportation company, pled guilty to four felony charges for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, Title 33, United States Code, Section 1908(a) and Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 151.25(a), (d) and (h). The criminal charges related to defendant’s activities in both Oregon and the Central District of California. This prosecution began after federal authorities received an e-mail in March 2002, from a former crew member of the Motor Vessel (M/V) Cygnus, a large ocean going bulk carrier, alleging that the ship was illegally discharging its oily wastes overboard through a bypass hose. Large ocean going ships use a heavy fuel oil that must be treated on board ship to remove impurities and water before it can be burned in the ship's engine. This process creates substantial amounts of oily waste.

Under international treaty and U.S. law, these oily wastes cannot be discharged into the ocean, but must be burned on board in an incinerator or retained on board for eventual unloading ashore. Additionally, bilge water that is contaminated with oil cannot be discharged at sea unless run through a pollution control device, called an Oil Water Separator, that reduces the oil content of the wastes to less than 15 parts per million.

All ships are required to keep an official log, called an Oil Record Book, which accurately records the handling of oily wastes and oily bilge water. Under international treaty and U.S. law, the United States Coast Guard inspects foreign ships that come into US ports to verify compliance with these requirements.

On April 10, 2002, the M/V Cygnus arrived in the Port of Portland and United States Coast Guard conducted a boarding and subsequently executed a search warrant. During the execution of the warrant, the Coast Guard found a bypass hose and multiple indications that crew members had been illegally discharging oily waste at sea. Various members of the crew made statements to the government, admitting that the ship discharged its oily wastes overboard through a bypass hose and did not burn the sludge in the incinerator. The Chief Engineer also admitted that he falsified entries in the vessel’s Oil Record Book to cover up the illegal discharges of oily wastes into the ocean. The ship’s Oil Record Book had not accurately recorded all transfers and disposals of oily wastes and did not accurately record all discharges of bilge water. The M/V Cygnus had made visits to both the Port of Portland, Oregon and the Port of Long Beach, California.

At sentencing, and as part of the plea agreement, Judge Garr M. King ordered defendant to pay $1,005,000 as a criminal fine in the District of Oregon, as well as a $335,000 fine in a related Central District of California case that was part of the same investigation. Additionally, Fujitrans will pay $495,000, as community service, to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for the benefit of the Columbia River Coastal and Estuarine Fund in Oregon, and $165,000 to the Channel Islands National Park of the United States National Park Service, located in Ventura, California. The defendant was also placed on probation for three years and is required to fully implement an environmental compliance program designed to prevent future violations.

The guilty plea was the latest in a series of recent federal criminal prosecutions along the West Coast in which shipping corporations, and engineers, have been convicted and sentenced for similar criminal behavior. The multi-district prosecution of Fujitrans Corporation is a clear indication of the Department of Justice’s resolve to work cooperatively with federal agencies to stop these practices and require vessel operators to develop comprehensive compliance programs to prevent future discharges. In discussing this case, Karin J. Immergut, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, noted: “The Fujitrans prosecution was part of an ongoing team effort by the United States Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States Coast Guard to crack down on environmental polluters. We take environmental crimes seriously and polluters need to know that we will do everything we can to hold them responsible for their actions.”

The United States Attorney further applauded the actions of the former crew member who notified the government of the illegal pollution activities back in March 2002, and which led to this prosecution. At the time of sentencing, the government asked the court to award the whistle blower a portion of the total fine. The court agreed with the government’s request and awarded the whistle blower $360,000.

The Oregon criminal case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert B. Ross (retired), Assistant United States Attorney Scott M. Kerin, and U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section, Senior Trial Attorney Richard Poole. The California case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William W. Carter. This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Portland, the United States Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division.

(HK LAW)

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