10 December 2022
The US Department of Justice decided to imprison the Chief Engineer of a foreign-flagged vessel. Particularly, for deliberately discharging approximately 10,000 gallons of oily contaminated bilge water overboard in U.S. waters off the coast of New Orleans last year, and for obstructing justice.
Unfortunately, the repair operations to correct a problem with the discharge of clean ballast water resulted in engine room flooding. After the leak was under control, Kompanietes and a subordinate engineer dumped the oily bilge water overboard. Specifically, while the ship was at an anchorage near the Southwest Passage off the Louisiana coast.
Note that, the ship must have pollution prevention devices, an oily-water separator and oil content monitor. However, these were unused, and the discharge was not reported in the Oil Record Book, a required ship log.
The illegal conduct was first reported to the Coast Guard by a crew member via social media. The Honorable Nannette Jolivette Brown sentenced Kompaniets to serve a year and a day in prison, pay a USD 5,000 fine and USD 200 special assessment, and serve six months of supervised release.
Moreover, Kompaniets faced charges of obstruction of justice based on various efforts to conceal the illegal discharging of oily waste.
In a joint factual statement filed in Court with his guilty plea, Kompaniets admitted to the following acts of obstruction of justice:
- 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, 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. Prosecutions such as this one should send a clear message to those that would violate the law and endanger our precious natural resources”Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division
According to the United States Department of Justice, the investigation is still ongoing.
Source: US Department of Justice
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