A court in Louisiana has fined Cyprus-based shipmanager Interorient Marine Services $2m for falsifying logbook entries concealing illegal discharges of oil and further action continues against the vessel’s master.
Interorient admitted that oil cargo residues and oily bilge water were illegally dumped from the Ridgebury Alexandra Z directly into the ocean without being properly processed through required pollution prevention equipment. The company also admitted that false entries were made in the vessel’s Oil Record Book to conceal the illegal dumping.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the company will pay the $2m fine and serve a 4-year term of probation, during which all vessels operated by the company and calling at US ports will be required to implement a robust Environmental Compliance Plan.
The vessel’s captain, Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, was charged in a six-count indictment by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Louisiana on 29 November 2018, for his involvement in this case. The indictment alleges that Birzakovs directed circumvention of the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment, falsified records, obstructed justice, made false statements, and conspired with other crewmembers to falsify the vessel’s Oil Record Book and to obstruct the US Coast Guard’s enforcement of the law in conjunction with the illegal discharges from the Ridgebury Alexandra Z. The charges and allegations contained in Birzakovs’ indictment are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Unlike the usual ‘magic pipe’ cases where the oil water separator is completely by-passed, in this incident the US department of Justice reported that senior ship officers employed by Interorient discharged oily waste into the ocean by flushing the vessel’s pollution prevention equipment sensor with fresh water. This flushing of the sensor tricked the system into detecting a much lower effluent oil content than what was actually being discharged. These senior officers then falsified the vessel’s Oil Record Book, recording that 87,705 gallons of oily wastewater had been discharged properly through the pollution prevention equipment, when in fact they knew that this pollution prevention equipment had been tampered with.
“By illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean, Interorient intentionally violated federal law that protects valuable marine resources and wildlife,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. “This conviction shows that corporations and individuals that wilfully flout our nation’s environmental laws will be held accountable by criminal prosecution.”