The former chief engineer of a tuna fishing vessel owned by Sanford Ltd. pleaded guilty April 17, 2012, in federal court in the District of Columbia to a criminal violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS ) for dumping “oily bilge waste” from the vessel directly into the sea without using mandatory pollution prevention equipment and for lying to U.S. Coast Guard investigators. U.S. v. Sanford Ltd., No 11-352 (D.D.C. plea entered 4/17/12).  

Defendant served as the ship’s chief engineer during multiple fishing trips in the South Pacific between March 2006 and July 2011. In July 2011, the Coast Guard discovered the violations while conducting a routine inspection of the vessel in American Samoa. At that time, defendant told the inspectors that the ship used an oil water separator but later admitted that the ship routinely discharged directly into the sea. He also admitted falsifying the ship’s oil record book and lying to inspectors. Sentencing is scheduled for September 2012.

Separately, federal authorities have charged a second engineer from the same vessel and New Zealand-based Sanford Ltd. with obstruction of justice and other APPS violations; they are awaiting trial. According to news reports, the company could be fined up to $500,000 per count if convicted, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to forfeit from Sanford more than $24 million in proceeds purportedly derived from its alleged illegal activity. See DOJ Press Release, April 17, 2012.