Sanford vessel chief guilty of pollution charges

A former chief engineer from the tuna fishing vessel San Nikunau has pleaded guilty to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), the U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this week.

Rolando Ong Vano, 50, entered the guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He served as the chief engineer on the vessel, which was owned and operated by New Zealand’s Sanford Ltd., during several fishing trips in the South Pacific between March 2006 and July 2011. Sanford Ltd. and another prior chief engineer from the vessel have been charged with obstruction of justice and APPS violations; they are currently awaiting trial. 

According to the plea agreement, the F/V San Nikunau routinely discharged directly into the sea oily bilge waste from the engine room and other areas of the vessel without using required pollution prevention equipment. Vano admitted to falsifying the oil record book and lying to U.S. Coast Guard inspectors that the required oil water separator was used on the vessel. The Coast Guard discovered the violations during an inspection of the vessel in American Samoa in July 2011.

Vano will be sentenced in early September.

In December, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., returned a seven-count indictment charging Sanford with the APPS, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.


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