In a pollution case that continues to be under investigation, the chief engineer of a Marshall Islands bulk carrier has been sentenced to prison for deliberately discharging approximately 10,000 gallons of oil-contaminated bilge water overboard in U.S. waters off the coast of New Orleans last year, and for obstructing justice. The illegal conduct was first reported to the Coast Guard by a crew member via social media.
The Honorable Nannette Jolivette Brown sentenced Russian national Kirrill 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.
Kompaniets had entered a guilty plea May 18 to two felony counts in the case.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in the March 2021 incident, repair operations to correct a problem with the discharge of clean ballast water resulted in the bulker’s engine room flooding. After the leak was controlled, Kompaniets and a subordinate engineer dumped the oily bilge water overboard while the ship was at an anchorage near the Southwest Passage off the Louisiana coast. 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 vessel’s oil record book.
Kompaniets was also charged with obstruction of justice based on various efforts to conceal the illegal discharge. In a joint factual statement filed in Court with his guilty plea, Kompaniets admitted to the following acts of obstruction of justice: (1) 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; (2) destroying the computer alarm printouts for the period of the illegal discharge that were sought by the Coast Guard; (3) holding meetings with subordinate crew members and directing them to make false statements to the Coast Guard; (4) making a false oil record book that failed to disclose the illegal discharge; (5) directing subordinate engine room employees to delete all evidence from their cell phones in anticipation of the Coast Guard inspection; and (6) 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.”
“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 Department of Justice says that the investigation is continuing.