The Chief Engineer of a foreign flagged bulk carrier has been sentenced to a year plus one day in prison for deliberately discharging oil-contaminated bilge water overboard in U.S. waters and obstructing justice.
Chief Engineer Kirill Kompaniets, a Russian national, previously pleaded guilty in May to two felony counts related to illegal discharges in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and obstruction of justice based on multiple intential efforts to conceal the discharges.
The illegal conduct was first reported to the Coast Guard by a crew member via social media.
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 it—in the bilges overboard while the ship was at an anchorage near the South West Passage off the Louisiana coast, near New Orleans.
The ship’s required pollution prevention devices – an oily-water separator and oil content monitor – were 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 various efforts to conceal the illegal discharge.
In a joint factual statement filed with his guilty plea, Kompaniets admitted to making false statements to the Coast Guard that concealed the cause and nature of a hazardous condition, and concealing that the engine room of the vessel had flooded and that oil-contaminated bilge water had been discharged overboard; destroying the computer alarm printouts for the period of the illegal discharge that were sought by the Coast Guard; holding meetings with subordinate crew members and directing them to make false statements to the Coast Guard; making a false Oil Record Book that failed to disclose the illegal discharge; directing subordinate engine room employees to delete all evidence from their cell phones in anticipation of the Coast Guard inspection; and preparing 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 cover-up are 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.”
Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown sentenced Kompaniets to serve a year and a day in prison, pay a $5,000 fine and $200 special assessment, and serve six months of supervised release.
“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. “Today’s announcement emphasizes that both our office and 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 has not identified the vessel involved in the incident.
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