The chief engineer of an unidentified Eagle Bulk Shipping vessel has pleaded guilty to two felony counts of dumping oily bilge water overboard off New Orleans and then taking steps to obstruct the US Coast Guard investigation.
The plea on Wednesday by Kirill Kompaniets, a Russian national, is the first tangible result of an investigation that was disclosed by New York-listed Eagle Bulk in a securities filing in March 2021.
Eagle Bulk was not identified as Kompaniets’ employer in the Department of Justice release on his pleas, and the vessel also was not identified. Eagle Bulk has not been charged with any offence and has said it is cooperating with the continuing probe.
The incident happened late on the night of 13 March 2021 or early on 14 March as crew members attempted to fix a ballast water problem when a valve burst, flooding the engine room with water.
Kompaniets and a subordinate engineer deliberately dumped about 45,000 litres of oily bilge overboard as the vessel was anchored near the South West Passage off the Louisiana coast.
The discharge was not recorded in the vessel’s oil record book, and Kompaniets then engaged in a series of actions to further conceal the violation, the government said.
Kompaniets admitted making false statements to Coast Guard investigators, destroying computer-alarm printouts, instructing subordinate crew to lie to the Coast Guard and creating a false record book.
The chief engineer also prepared “a retaliatory document” against a crew whistleblower who had reported the incident to the Coast Guard through social media, the government said.
“The defendant in this case deliberately disregarded procedures designed to protect the environment from contaminants and then attempted to hide his actions,” said Duane Evans, US attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Contacted on Friday, an Eagle Bulk spokesman repeated the company’s policy of not commenting on an ongoing investigation.
“However, it is important to let you know that we take any such allegations extremely seriously as it would be a serious violation of all our environmental, safety and operating practices,” he said.
Gary Vogel-led Eagle Bulk owns and operates 53 supramax and ultramax bulkers.
Based in Stamford, Connecticut, it has a strong reputation for corporate governance, having for three consecutive years finished at the top of analyst Michael Webber’s “scorecard” of more than 50 publicly listed shipowners.
Eagle Bulk said in its annual report for 2021 that it had spent $2.8m on the case, including legal fees, surety bond expenses, vessel off-hire, crew changes and travel costs.