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Shipping firm fined for illegal dumping

The operator of a 648-foot container ship alleged to have dumped an unknown quantity of illegal discharge into the Pacific Ocean was fined $100,000 and incurred other penalties.

A Coast Guard boarding in the Port of Kalama, Wash., earlier this year was prompted by a cell phone tip from a crewmember that the vessel had illegally dumped oil-contaminated refuse overboard while en route to Kalama from Los Angeles.

The China Navigation Co., which operates the Hong Kong-flagged Pacific Celebes, pleaded guilty March 22 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., for failing to keep accurate records, as required by federal law. The company agreed to pay a $75,000 fine (half of which goes to the whistle-blower), a $25,000 community service payment to the Columbia River Estuarine Coastal Fund, and is required to institute an enhanced environmental training program and a direct reporting procedure for all of its ships that call on U.S. ports, according to Emily Langlie, public affairs officer in the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Washington. The company also was placed on probation for two years.

"There is no limit to the fine for illegal dumping; $100,000 is actually on the low side," said Michael Zamperini, chief of the prevention department in Coast Guard Sector Portland, Ore.

— Elizabeth Ellis

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