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PIL shipping levied $2.2MIL fine for polluting local waters

The marine sanctuaries and coral reef preservation in American Samoa are beneficiaries of a $200,000 monetary fine, which is part of a community service payment being imposed on Pacific International Lines Inc., who were sentenced last Friday in the federal court in Washington D.C. after pleading guilty to violating maritime pollution laws.


Samoa News reported last month that a plea agreement was filed by federal prosecutors stemming from charges against Singapore-based Pacific International Lines, whose freighter Southern Lily 2 was detained in the territory last June by the local U.S. Coast Guard for possible violation of international pollution and U.S. laws.


According to the 19-page plea agreement, the defendant pled guilty last Friday 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 was accepted by the court, the defendant agreed to pay a total criminal penalty of $2.2 million of which $2 million is the criminal fine and $200,000 for community service payment will go 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, according to the plea document.


“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.


Federal court records shows that the defendant was also placed on 36 months probation, and for each count to “run concurrent”. The defendant was also required to pay a $1,200 “special assessment” fine.


Joshua J. Masterson, Special Agent-in-Charge of Coast Guard Investigative Service-Pacific Region said the sentence is  a noteworthy success for the few federal law enforcement agencies charged with enforcing U.S. and international maritime laws protecting the oceans and natural marine resources both around the remote U.S. Pacific Islands and throughout the vast area of the South Pacific.


“This case, being the third of its kind since 2011, should send a clear message to those shipping companies and mariners who willfully cut corners and violate the laws enacted to protect the oceans as well as place a much needed spotlight on this region of the South Pacific,” said Masterson is joint news release by the U.S. Justice Department.


The first case occurred in American Samoa waters in the summer of 2010 when the Panamanian flagged vessel, Syota Mura, was detained by the local Coast Guard and later charged by the Justice Department in 2011. Owner of the vessel pled guilty in the later part of 2011 to several violations including federal maritime pollution laws and was ordered to pay a hefty fine.


The second case involved the New Zealand based San Nikunau, owned by Sanford Limited, who was last year convicted of dumping oil pollution in American Samoa waters and last month fined and ordered to pay $2.4 million in monetary penalties. The company was also  placed on three years probation.


Conditions of probation for Pacific International Lines, include that the company must operate under the terms of a federal government-approved Environmental Compliance Plan.  The plan includes review by an independent auditor of any of Pacific International Lines ships — including the Southern Lily 2 — that trade in the United States. 


Provisions of the environmental plan require that just eight vessels belonging to Pacific International — identified by name in the plea agreement — may operate in U.S. waters, including American Samoa.


Meanwhile, the Justice Department says Quing Cao, the second engineer of the Southern Lily 2, pled guilty to a felony information charging him with operating the Southern Lily 2 in waters of the United States without a functioning oil water separator in violation of the Act to prevent Pollution from Ships.


The court sentenced Cao to 36 months of probation and ordered Cao to depart the United States immediately.  As a condition of probation, the court ordered Cao not to work on any vessel that calls in at a U.S. port during the term of his probation.