Chief Engineer Convicted in MARPOL Case After Crew Reports Discharges
The chief engineer of a general cargo ship was convicted by a U.S. jury of MARRPOL violations and faces potential jail time while the ship’s management company pleaded guilty to a felony violation and is being fined and placed under supervision. While the U.S. Coast Guard regularly conducts inspections and the U.S. Justice Department prosecutes MARPOL violations, part of what calls attention to this case is the vessel’s crew reported the chief engineer’s actions alerting USCG. There was also evidence of the ship manager's complicity in the violations.
Court papers from the Southern District of California show that the U.S. Coast Guard received an email on May 27, 2022, from the second engineer aboard the Donald, a 12,767 dwt general cargo ship that was inbound for San Diego, California. The vessel at the time was owned by a Marshall Islands company, registered in Liberia, and managed by the German-based group of Interunity Management.
The USCG reports the email informed them that the chief engineer had ordered the pumping of oily bilge water directly from the bilge to the sewage tanks and discharged it into the ocean. Later during the USCG’s investigation, the second engineer backed up his allegations by showing USCG inspectors a video he had recorded in which the chief engineer is reportedly seen attempting to clean the sewage tank and check for oil residue. Interviews with several crewmembers during the inspection would also corroborate the second engineer’s report.
When the Donald arrived in San Diego on May 31, it had a previously scheduled port state inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard. Among the evidence offered by the USCG was a report that the oil record book had no entries between March 2 and May 24, 2022, followed by a few entries at the end of May. Records however showed the high-level engine room bilge alarms had sounded multiple times during those dates. Subsequent tests by the USCG showed the presence of heavy fuel oil mixed with lubricating oil in the sewage tank.
Further investigation also revealed a series of emails between senior crewmembers and shoreside managers. The USCG reported those showed instructions on how to act to cover up possible evidence of the oil discharges including telling the crew to throw away any handwritten notes after correcting the oil record book and that the sewage tank should be emptied and cleaned with the activity recorded as “routine cleaning” in the log. Further, they report there were efforts to get the crewmember who reported the illegal discharges to revise his report.
Chief engineer Denys Korotkiy was convicted in a five-day jury trial. The counts included conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction, and failure to maintain an accurate oil record book for the Donald. The court remanded Korotkiy to custody awaiting sentencing scheduled for September 1.
Separate from the trial, Interunity also pleaded guilty to a felony violation for failing to accurately maintain the Donald’s oil record book. Under the terms of the plea agreement and subject to court approval, Interunity will pay a total monetary penalty of $1.25 million and serve a four-year term of probation, during which any vessels operated by the company and calling on U.S. ports will be required to implement an Environmental Compliance Plan that was submitted to the court as part of the plea.