Kiwi fishing company convicted of dumping
Thu, 16 Aug 2012 6:24p.m.
By Michael Morrah
One of New Zealand's biggest fishing companies has been convicted by a jury in the United States of dumping oily waste into the water in American Samoa, and then trying to cover it up.
The company had denied any wrongdoing, but now says the decision highlights the need to properly maintain ship records.
The San Nikunau was docked in American Samoa in July last year when it was boarded by the US coastguard. The crew had been unloading fish, but investigators also witnessed them pumping oily, untreated bilge water into the port of Pago Pago.
"We pride ourselves on having the environment we have – healthy, clean," says Garry Parsloe, Maritime Union president.
"We advertise it for tourists. We do all that, and yet for this company to be overseas carrying on like this is bad for New Zealand. It's reprehensible in some ways, isn't it?"
International laws say oily bilge water can be discharged, but only after it's been filtered. Otherwise it must be stored then taken ashore.
The Sanford crew claimed they'd been using an oil separation tool - they hadn't. They then tried to cover their tracks by making fake statements in the vessel's Oil record book.
Sanford's director Eric Barratt said at the time it wasn't in the wrong.
"Sanford will vigorously defend the charges," he said.
But today in Washington DC, he released a statement saying: "The decision was disappointing, but it highlights the need to work diligently to maintain the required logs and records regarding the management of oily wastes aboard vessels."
Researcher Glenn Simmons says New Zealand-owned vessels generally follow the rules, but that's not always the case with foreign charter vessels.
"Oil is commonly - from foreign charter vessels - discharged directly into the sea, and we are not talking small amount. We could be talking as much as 4000 litres over a month to six-week period."
Sanford hasn't ruled out appealing the conviction, but a decision about that won't be made until sentencing in November. The company faces a maximum fine of almost $4 million.
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