Tank Vessel Operator Convicted and Sentenced for Oil Discharge Offense, Vessel Captain Indicted
Interorient Marine Services Limited, a vessel operating company, was convicted and sentenced yesterday in the Western District of Louisiana, for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oil from the tank vessel Ridgebury Alexandra Z, announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and United States Attorney David C. Joseph for the Western District of Louisiana.
Interorient Marine Services Limited 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. Specifically, senior ship officers employed by Interorient Marine Services Limited 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 Clark. “This conviction shows that corporations and individuals that willfully flout our nation’s environmental laws will be held accountable by criminal prosecution.”
“My office is charged with enforcing federal and international laws designed to protect our oceans from pollutants carried by commercial vessels,” U.S. Attorney Joseph stated. “Tankers are required to offload their waste oil at disposal facilities at ports and not into the Gulf of Mexico. This case should serve as a deterrent to other individuals and companies that ignore our laws, pollute our waters, and damage our environment.”
“The Coast Guard takes its responsibilities to protect the marine environment seriously,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Daniel H. Cost, CO of Marine Safety Unite Lake Charles. “When potential criminal violations of our nation's pollution laws are identified, we work closely with the Department of Justice to ensure any illegal activities are prosecuted to the fullest extent of law.”
Interorient Marine Services Limited pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a), for failing to accurately maintain the Ridgebury Alexandra Z’s Oil Record Book. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the company will pay a total fine of $2 million and serve a 4-year term of probation, during which all vessels operated by the company and calling on U.S. 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 Nov. 29, 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 U.S. 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.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. McCoy of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana.