Japanese fishing company admits illegal dumping of oil, waste

HARBOR: A Navy watercraft is seen in Apra Harbor near Family Beach in May 2017. A Japan-based fishing company has entered into a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors for dumping waste oil after pulling into port at Apra Harbor. Post file photo

A Japanese company has signed a plea agreement with U.S. authorities admitting to illegally dumping oil, sludge, animal carcasses, plastics and fishing gear in Guam's Apra Harbor.

Fukuichi Gyogyo Kabushiki Kaisha admitted to two counts of violating the act to prevent pollution from ships and obstruction of an agency proceeding. The charges each come with a maximum fine of $500,000.

The company owns the fishing vessel Fukuichi Maru No. 112. In the agreement, the company admitted it failed to maintain accurate records while in U.S. waters.

On April 1, the Fukuichi Maru No. 112 pulled into Apra Harbor to make repairs on its cargo refrigeration system. While the vessel was docked, a U.S. Coast Guard crew discovered 15 pollution and safety deficiencies and detained the vessel pursuant to the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, court documents state.

Through the course of the investigation, inspectors discovered numerous leaks of water and oil that accumulated in the engine room bilge from service pumps, fish hold cooling system, diesel generators and other machinery.

Inspectors learned that the crew members had discharged oily bilge water and oil mixtures directly overboard through the emergency bilge pump system and by using buckets without using the required oil-water separator, the plea agreement states.

Statements by the vessel’s chief engineer indicated that it was the crew’s “long-standing practice” to discharge oily water and oily mixtures directly into the sea.

A review of the oil record books revealed that entries had been erased and replaced to match an international oil pollution prevention certificate and hundreds of discharges and lubrication and bunker fuel delivered had not been recorded.