Chief Engineer sentenced to year in jail for obstructing USCG MARPOL Case

A US court has sentenced Denys Korotkiy, a Russian citizen and the chief engineer of Liberian-registered cargo ship Donald to a year in jail for his role in attempting to deceive the US Coast Guard during an investigation into MARPOL violation. The engineer had been convicted after a five-day trial in June after declining to plead guilty. The shipping company pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

In May 2022 when the Donald, a 12,767 dwt general cargo ship arrived in San Diego, California. The USCG investigated after receiving an emailed tip from the Second Engineer. He had told the USCG 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. The Second Engineer also provided a video that he shot aboard the ship. Interviews with several crewmembers during the inspection corroborated the Second Engineer’s claims.

During its inspection the USCG found no entries in the oil record book between March 2nd and May 24th 2022, followed by a few entries at the end of May.

Records showed that 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. These included telling the crew to throw away any handwritten notes after they had “corrected” the oil record book. They were also instructed to empty and clean the sewage tank, subsequently recording this in the log as “routine cleaning”. Further, they reported there were efforts to get the crewmember who reported the illegal discharges to revise his report.

Korotkiy made false and fictitious entries in the oil record book, claiming that oily bilge had been transferred from the engine room bilge wells to the bilge holding tank. He also conspired with others to obstruct the USCG from inspecting and investigating the mishandling of oily bilge water on the Donald, the court had found.

He was indicted in November 2022 and faced four charges, three counts of obstruction of justice and one count of failing to keep an accurate oil book.

US District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson for the Southern District of California sentenced Korotkiy to serve a year 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 earlier this year to charges of maintaining false and incomplete records relating to the discharge of oily bilge water. The company was sentenced in June 2023 and ordered to pay a total of $1.25m, 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 the standard four-year probation and was required to enact an environmental compliance plan.