The chief engineer of a foreign vessel has been sentenced to prison for purposefully dumping roughly 10,000 gallons of oil-contaminated bilge water into an area off the coast of New Orleans, a Justice Department press release confirmed.
Kirill Kompaniets, a Russian national who served on the unnamed commercial bulk carrier registered in the Marshall Islands, was sentenced yesterday by Louisiana district court judge Nannette Jolivette Brown. He received a year and a day in prison, a fine of $5,000, a $200 special assessment and six months of supervised release. Kompaniets first pled guilty to his crimes in May, which included obstruction of justice, a DOJ release stated.
The incident at hand, which took place last year over the course of March 13 and 14, occurred when the engine room of Kompaniets’ ship flooded during an attempt “to correct a problem with the discharge of clean ballast water,” the DOJ release said.
After fixing the leak, Kompaniets and an unnamed engineer dumped the contaminated water overboard while the ship was anchored off the Louisiana coast. Not only did the pair fail to use the ship’s pollution prevention equipment, they also did not record the discharge in the ship’s log, per standard procedure.
The act was first reported to the Coast Guard by a crew member via social media, according to the DOJ press release.
The Coast Guard, in conjunction with other government agencies, regularly responds to oil spill incidents — in part through its National Pollution Funds Center. In the last few weeks alone, the service responded to a spill off the coast of Washington state and convicted another company for record keeping failures following the discharge of oily bilge water into the ocean.
“The intentional pollution of U.S. waters and the deliberate cover-up are serious criminal offenses that will not be tolerated,” Todd Kim, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the release. “Prosecutions such as this one should send a clear message to those that would violate the law and endanger our precious natural resources.”
In May, Kompaniets admitted to a series of efforts to obstruct justice in the case, including lying to the Coast Guard about the incident, destroying and faking documents about the illegal discharge and pressuring other crew members to help in the scheme. He also conceded to preparing a document to discredit the whistleblower.
“The defendant in this case deliberately disregarded procedures designed to protect the environment from contaminants and then attempted to hide his actions,” Duane A. Evans, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said in the release.
“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 investigation of the case is ongoing, Justice Department officials said.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media