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Tanker Engineer Found Guilty of Dumping Oily Bilge In Ocean Near Oakland

OAKLAND (CBS SF/BCN) -- A federal jury convicted a 38-year-old man of aiding and abetting an environmental crime, and obstructing justice in connection with an intentional dumping of oily bilge water from a commercial tanker back in February 2019.

Gilbert Fajardo Dela Cruz, a Philippine national, was an engineer on the commercial tanker Zao Galaxy and therefore responsible, the court found, for the actions of his crew dumping the bilge water and then covering it up by submitting bogus paperwork to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Zao Galaxy was operated by Dela Cruz's employer, Unix Line PTE Ltd., a Singapore-based company.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that the Zao Galaxy, like all such large oil tanker vessels, generates oily bilge water when traveling. The procedure such ships are to follow has this water treated with chemicals to remove the oil before being discharged into the ocean.

During a Feb. 19, 2019, examination while the boat was moored in Richmond, Coast Guard officials found the ship discharging untreated bilge water.

Dela Cruz's employer admitted guilt in February of last year to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. A judge ordered the company to pay a $1.65 million fine and to serve probation for four years.

Dela Cruz, however, denied responsibility and went to trial, prosecutors said. The jury found him guilty on three counts -- including obstruction of justice -- and he faces a maximum of 31 years in prison for the combined counts and a maximum fine of $750,000.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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