Hawaiian longline operators accept $475,000 MARPOL fine

The US Department of Justice and the US Coast Guard have reached a consent decree with Hawaii-based operator Asure Fishery over a discharge of oily waste from a commercial longliner.

In a federal complaint, federal prosecutors alleged that the tuna longliner Jaxon T was not equipped for the treatment or storage of oily bilge waste when under way and that she often discharged these wastes at sea. Company managers Khang Quang Dang and Hanh Thi Nguyen were alleged to have “had reason to know” that the vessel lacked the proper equipment to handle oily waste, but nevertheless allowed her to sail.

The bulkhead separating the Jaxon T’s engine room from the fish hold was said to have penetrations that allowed a free flow of fluids between the two compartments.

Substantial amounts of water from melted ice would have flowed into the engine room, where it would raise the level of the water in the bilge. As a result the crew allegedly pumped the bilge water directly over the side using a portable electric water pump one or more times per day.

In March 2017 a USCG boarding team met the Jaxon T as she returned to the pier in Honolulu. They discovered the pump and a system of pipes and hoses that ran from the engine room, up to the deck level and out through a scupper. Oil was visible in the discharge end of the hose, which was hanging over the vessel’s side.

Shortly after this Azure Fishery transferred the ownership of the Jaxon T to Linh Fishery for $1. Separately, Linh Fishery paid Nguyen and Dang about $300,000. The complaint alleged that this sale was a fraudulent transfer of assets designed to avoid paying the US government any sums owed for the transgressions. The DOJ also filed a partial settlement with Nguyen and Dang who have agreed to pay $475,000 in civil penalties and reimbursements. The managers also committed to making operational improvements for their full fleet of 25 longline fishing vessels, which are based in Honolulu. Charges against the other defendants remain active.