Chief Engineer Sentenced to Year in Jail for Obstructing USCG MARPOL Case
A U.S. court last week sentenced the chief engineer of a Liberian-registered cargo ship to a year in jail for his role in attempting to deceive the U.S. Coast Guard during an investigation into MARPOL violation. The engineer had decided to go to trial and was convicted after a five-day trial in June, while the shipping company pleaded guilty and paid a fine.
The incident began in May 2022 when the Donald, a 12,767 dwt general cargo ship arrived in San Diego, California. They were acting on an emailed tip received days earlier from the second engineer. He wrote the USCG telling them 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 and he later backed it up with a video he shot aboard the ship. Interviews with several crewmembers during the inspection also corroborated the second engineer’s report.
During their inspection, the USCG found no entries in the oil record book 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. Further, investigation revealed a series of emails between senior crewmembers and shoreside managers with 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. They were also instructed 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, a Russian citizen, made false and fictitious entries in the oil record book claiming oily bilge had been transferred from the engine room bilge wells to the bilge holding tank. He also conspired with others to obstruct the U.S. Coast Guard from inspecting and investigating the mishandling of oily bilge water on the Donald.
He was indicted in November 2022. He was facing four charges, three counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of failing to keep an accurate oil book. U.S. District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson for the Southern District of California sentenced Korotkiy to serve twelve months and a day in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and failure to maintain an accurate oil record book.
The vessel’s manager, Interunity Management (Deutschland) pleaded guilty to charges of maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water. They were sentenced in June 2023 and ordered to pay a total of $1.25 million, including a $937,500 fine and $312,500 to the National Fish and Wildlife Fund to benefit marine and coastal natural resources in or near the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. The company was also placed on four-year probation and required to enact an environmental compliance plan.