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Company pleads guilty and sentenced for oil discharge offense; captain indicted

Posted: 4:19 PM, Feb 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-14 17:19:46-05

Interorient Marine Services Limited, a vessel operating company, pleaded guilty and sentenced in Lake Charles in connection with the illegal dumping of oil cargo residue.

The conviction was for maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oil from the tank vessel Ridgebury Alexandra Z.  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 an Environmental Compliance Plan.

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.

The 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.

The vessel’s captain, Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, was indicted in November 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.

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.