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Russian Captain Acquitted of MARPOL Violations in U.S.
A jury in the Western District of Louisiana has acquitted the Russian Master of an oil tanker on all charges related to illegal discharges from the vessel. After spending more than 19 months detained in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Captain Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, Master of the oil tanker RIDGEBURY ALEXANDRA Z, will now be able to return to Russia following his complete acquittal by a jury on May 23, 2019, Birzakovs’ attorney’s announced this week. The Captain was accused of six criminal counts of federal pollution and obstruction of justice related to a Coast Guard investigation of the RIDGEBURY ALEXANDRA Z for alleged MARPOL violations.
Master of the tanker is facing six federal charges for pollution
A U.S. court has sentenced the Cypriot ship management company of the "Ridgebury Alexandra Z" to a $2 million fine and four years of probation for MARPOL violations. In a plea agreement, the Interorient Marine Services of Limassol, Cyprus admitted that oil cargo residues and oily bilge water were illegally dumped from the tanker into the water without being processed through an oil-water separator. The company pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying entries in the ship's Oil Record Book in connection with the discharge. The method the crew used to circumvent their ship's pollution control equipment was more sophisticated than the common "magic pipe" arrangement, in which a hose setup is used to pump oily waste directly over the side. Instead, senior officers aboard the vessel engineered a method to flush clean fresh water through the sensors used to detect oil-in-water concentrations, tricking the ship's pollution prevention system into recording a much lower oil content than what was actually being discharged. They then logged a "properly treated" discharge of 90,000 gallons in the Oil Record Book. After Coast Guard inspectors discovered this violation and began an investigation with federal prosecutors, Interorient pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 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 four-year term of probation, during which all of the firm's vessels will be required to implement an environmental compliance plan if calling in U.S. ports. The master of the vessel, Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, was facing six federal charges in connection with his involvement in the case. Prosecutors allege 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.
Tank Vessel Operator to Pay $2 Million Fine for Illegal Discharges
Vessel operator Interorient Marine Services was convicted and sentenced to pay a $2 million fine and probation Wednesday 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, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday, Feb 14,2019.Upload News