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The Chief Engineer of a foreign flagged bulk carrier has pleaded guilty in U.S. court to two felony counts for deliberately discharging oil-contaminated bilge water overboard off the coast of New Orleans last year and then going to great lengths to obstruct the Coast Guard’s investigation of the spill.
The illegal conduct was first reported to the Coast Guard by a crew member via social media.
Kirill Kompaniets, a Russian national and chief engineer of the commercial bulk carrier registered in the Marshall Islands, was charged with the illegal discharge in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
According to papers filed in court, repair operations were underway in March 2021 to correct a problem with the discharge of clean ballast water when a valve burst and the engine room flooded. Late one night, after the leak had been controlled, Kompaniets and a subordinate engineer deliberately dumped the oil contaminated water—10,000 gallons of—in the bilges overboard while the ship was at an anchorage near the South West Passage off the Louisiana coast.
The ship’s required pollution prevention equipment (an oily-water separator and oil content monitor) was not used, and the discharge was not recorded in the Oil Record Book, a required ship log.
Kompaniets was also charged with obstruction of justice based on multiple intential efforts to conceal the illegal discharge.
In a joint factual statement filed in court with his guilty plea, Kompaniets admitted to making false statements to the Coast Guard, concealing the cause and nature of a hazardous condition, that the engine room of the vessel had flooded, and that oil-contaminated bilge water had been discharged overboard. Kompaniets also destroyed the computer alarm printouts sought by the Coast Guard for the period of the illegal discharge, and held meetings with subordinate crew members directing them to make false statements to the Coast Guard.
In addition, Kompaniets made false entries in the ship’s Oil Record Book and directed subordinate engine room employees to delete all evidence from their cell phones in anticipation of the Coast Guard inspection. He even prepared a retaliatory document accusing the whistleblower of poor performance as part of an effort to discredit him.
“The intentional pollution of U.S. waters and the deliberate effort to cover up the crime are extremely serious criminal offenses that will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Prosecutions such as this one should send a clear message to those that would violate the law and endanger our precious natural resources.”
“The defendant in this case deliberately disregarded procedures designed to protect the environment from contaminants and then attempted to hide his actions,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “[This] announcement emphasizes that our office along with our federal partners are committed to holding accountable all parties whose criminality jeopardizes our environment and places the public and the ecosystem at risk.”
The Justice Department did not identify the vessel involved in the incident.
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