A Japanese ship operator was ordered to pay $1.8 million for illegally dumping oil residue and bilge water into the ocean last year, as part of a plea agreement Friday in federal court in Baltimore.
A crew member on board the ship who acted as a whistle-blower will receive $250,000 of that, while $450,000 will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for projects benefiting the Chesapeake Bay, according to the office of Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland.
The sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, came after Hachiuma Steamship Co., the operator of the M/V Selene Leader, pleaded guilty to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
The plea agreement includes three years of probation, during which the company must develop an environmental compliance program, according to Rosenstein's office.
The shipping line could not be reached for comment.
"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," said Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Kiefer of the port of Baltimore.
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According to the plea agreement, the M/V Selene Leader arrived in Baltimore on Jan. 29, 2014, with an oil record book that did not account for oily waste that had been discharged directly into the ocean.
Law requires that such discharge must first pass through a machine that separates oil from water.
A whistle-blower among the crew came forward about the discharge, and helped investigators determine that crew members Noly Torato Vidad, 47, and Ireneo Tomo Tuale, 63, both of the Philippines, had arranged the scheme.
Vidad and Tuale have pleaded guilty in separate proceedings and are scheduled to appear in federal court in Baltimore on Feb. 20 and March 3, respectively, for sentencing, Rosenstein's office said.