Ship Captain Pleads Guilty to Charges Related to Vessel Pollution
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Press Release (September 27,2007):
WASHINGTON -- Nicanor E. Jumalon pleaded guilty today, in federal court in Puerto Rico, for his involvement with the illegal dumping of oily sludge, bilge wastes, and oil contaminated ballast water from the 479-foot general cargo vessel the M/V Sportsqueen, the Justice Department announced.
Jumalon pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges related to his actions while aboard the ship and will serve prison terms of eight months in prison. According to the plea agreement, on April 14, 2007, the Sportsqueen arrived at port in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard. During the boarding, the Coast Guard discovered that Captain Jumalon had ordered crew members to discharge oil contaminated ballast water into the ocean prior to arriving into port in San Juan. With assistance from several lower level crew members, Coast Guard inspectors found and seized the hose and pipes used to dump the oil sludge, bilge waste, and contaminated ballast water overboard.
India-based shipping company Accord Ship Management, Jumalon’s employer and the owner and operator of the M/V Sportsqueen, and the ship’s Chief Engineer Francisco Sabando pleaded guilty on Sept. 20, 2007. The company was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $1.75 million and serve a three year term of probation during which time all of the ships in its fleet will be banned from U.S. waters and ports. Sabando pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges and will serve prison terms of five months.
Engine room operations on-board large oceangoing vessels such as the Sportsqueen generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by a device known as an oil water separator. The law also requires that all of the oil transferred onto, off of, or between tanks within a ship be recorded in an oil record book so all the oil on a ship can be accounted for when the ship is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.
As part of his plea, the Captain admitted to lying to the Coast Guard about his involvement in dumping oil contaminated ballast water overboard and also admitted that he instructed several crew members under his command to make false statements to the Coast Guard about the cause of the oil contamination of the ballast tanks. On Sept. 20, 2007, the court issued monetary awards to five witnesses under a provision of APPS which gives the court discretion to award up to half of the fine to persons who provide information leading to a conviction under the Act to Prevent Pollution by Ships. The ship’s First, Second, and Third Engineers, as well as an Oiler and Bosun were each awarded $50,000.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service working with marine investigators and vessel inspectors of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico. The prosecution was handled by prosecutors in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Puerto Rico.