Updated: Feb 24
A Singapore cargo shipping company has been fined $3 million for polluting Guam water in violation of federal environmental pollution.
Federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood has accepted Pacific International Private Lines’ guilty plea and sentenced the company to four years of probation.
The case stemmed from an Oct. 4, 2019 incident in which the M/V KotaHarum, a shipping vessel owned by Pacific International was found discharging oily bilge water into the waters of Apra Harbor.
Of the $3 million fine, $2 million has been designated as community service to fund the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's projects.
“ This instance reflects the very first time this court will be issuing such a community service order in an environmental crime case, let alone one of this magnitude. Thus, the court wishes to highlight and provide context for the funds," the court said. “Defendant will have to pay in this extraordinary environmental crime case affecting our island.”
The court noted that this is not the first time Pacific International Lines has found itself in hot water.
In 2013, the company pleaded guilty in another federal court on similar charges which involved a different shipping vessel, the M/V Southern Lily 2. In that proceeding, Pacific International Lines was placedon three years’ probation and required to pay a $2 million fine, $200,000 of which was designated as community service by the court.
The company was also required to formulate and execute an Environmental Compliance Plan for eight of its vessels trading in the United States’ ports. The plan has been expanded to to its entire fleet, enabling the company to receive “The United States Coast Guard’s Quality Shipping for the 21st Century program.”
Eight years later, however, Pacific International repeated its violation.
The Port Authority of Guam stevedores notified the U.S. Coast Guard, which ultimately led to the federal prosecution of Defendant and the Kora Harum’s first and second engineer for violations of federal environmental law.
Both the first and second engineers pled guilty and were sentenced on Jan. 19.
On Feb. 19, Defendant was sentenced by this court after it pled guilty to one count of violating the Clean Water Act and five counts of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution.
The $2 million designated for community service will be donated to the NFW
Foundation, which was created by the U.S. Congress as a grantmaking organization and is involved in both current and upcoming environmental projects in and around Guam, focusing on water quality improvement, pollution prevention, and coral restoration.
"The background information for these environmental projects indicates that each has the proper nexus of harm to the six crimes perpetrated by Defendant Pacific International Lines (Private) Limited," the court said.
For example, the project that relates to water quality and coral quality is close in nexus to the harm caused by the violations of the Clean Water Act.
"In addition, the violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships stem from improper recordkeeping for oil discharges occurring at sea without the proper and required treatment from the oily water separator," the court said.
"This is related in nexus to the projects which aim to improve environmental safety and compliance with the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships."
The $2 million will be allocated for the following:
•funding for a grant to develop and implement at sea and shoreside personnel compliance and education to be sponsored by a non-profit organization with a proven track record;
• funding for a University of Guam project designed to improve the watershed health and water quality throughout our island;
• funding for the project undertaken by the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to restore the Manell-Geus watershed and the Piti Bomb Hole Marine Preserve;
• funding for an ongoing “Tools for Effective Environmental Compliance” project designed to educate seafarers and shoreside personnel on the reasoning behind and the importance of environmental compliance including compliance with APPS/MARPOL;
• funding for projects in the Apra Harbor and surrounding areas for direct remedial action against future pollution by seafarers on commercial cargo, ocean going local tugs, and environmental shipping vessels, and application for shoreside personnel involved in port operations;
• funding for projects aiming to develop a genetic toolkit to find reefs under stress, determine the cause of such stress, and implement restorative solutions;
• funding for the restoration of staghorn coral and ecosystem services on reef flats of Guam in conjunction with future climate conditions.