State Environmental Inspectorate suspended Head of the Crimean and Chornomorsk District
18 December 2019, 14:41
In the photo: Odesa Chief Marine Environmental Inspector Oleksandr Stavniichuk (left) and his First Deputy Dmytro Kriuchkov
Within the framework of disciplinary proceedings Oleksandr Stavniichuk has been suspended from duty of the Head of the Crimean and Chornomorsk District of the State Environmental Inspectorate. It was announced by the acting Chairman of the State Environmental Inspectorate Yehor Firsov.
In his blog, Firsov spoke about a scheme operating in the Ukrainian ports with involvement of inspectors from the State Environmental Inspectorate. ‘When the foreign vessel, which was in the Ukrainian port, was about to leave, the local environmental inspectors urgently came up with some kind of inspection or violation in order to detain vessel in the port for several days under this pretext. The most frequently they decided to take so-called ballast water for analysis, that is the ordinary sea water which the vessels collect directly from the sea to increase sinkage while staying in the port, and then discharge before sailing. As a rule, ballast water is collected in special isolated tanks so no pollution can occur. But in theory it’s possible to inspect this water and, therefore, they became the reason for vessels detention’, he explained.
For a merchant vessel demurrage is very expensive — up to USD 100 thousand per day, depending on the vessel and cargo. Therefore, ship owners preferred to ‘resolve issues" with the environmental inspection. According to Firsov, in order to avoid paying USD 200-300 thousand for demurrage, they had to pay inspectors USD 20-50 thousand from one vessel. Thereafter the inspection was cancelled and the vessel was allowed to leave the port. ‘Being aware of such peculiarities of the Ukrainian ports, ship owners even included bribes to their expenses when they sent ships to Ukraine. As one of these ship owners told me, Ukrainian ports in this environment were considered as risks on equal terms with Somali pirates. The ordinary peaceful Ukrainian port caused the same damage to the international companies as African bandits did floating on the sea on rusty old boats’, he emphasized.
At the same time, not everyone agreed to pay bribes. Some companies took a principled stand, underwent all inspections and then filed a lawsuit against Ukraine, won and received compensation for their losses. In other words, the budget not only did not win from the fines set by the courts, but also lost. As an example, Firsov published judicial order according to which Castalia Shipholding SA, whose interests were represented by Fram Shipping Agency LLC, managed to get cancellation of a fine amounting to USD 36.4 thousand and sued UAH 975.4 thousand from the State Environmental Inspectorate for unlawful detention of the Captain Adams vessel in the sea port of Chornomorsk.
Firsov explained that pursuant to the law, regional branches should obtain permits on carrying out their inspections (including detention of vessels) from the Head of Environmental Inspectorate. But in order to ensure prompt and safe operation of the scheme, managers delegated this authority to the regional ones through power of attorney. ‘Hence, former managers allowed environmental inspectors in ports to conduct a filibuster at their discretion without necessity of constant coordination with the central office. To be sure, this scheme either provided profit to the Head of Environmental Inspectorate or corruption money flow was rapidly directed to the ministry. All these years, it has been acceptable for everybody. The Environmental Inspectorate has actually began similar to Somali pirates’, he emphasized.
‘As of today, I revoke all criminal commits and orders of the previous Heads of the Environmental Inspectorate, cease this pirate outlaws and stop state bribery racket in ports. In addition, within the framework of disciplinary proceedings I suspend Head of the Crimean and Chornomorsk District Oleksandr Stavniichuk. There will be no more unauthorised actions by the territorial authority. Somalia in the ports came to an end’, Firsov informed.
A working meeting convened on the initiative of the Acting Chairman of the State Environmental Inspectorate Yehor Firsov took place at Odesa Regional State Administration last week. The reason was a long practice of taking samples of isolated ballast by environmentalists, huge fines as well as delays of vessels and, consequently, preservation of well-known corruption schemes that seemed to have been eliminated since this summer by virtue of the direct government ban.
President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Odesa on July 13 this year acknowledged that there is widespread corruption in the ports and proposed to suspend vessel inspections in the sea ports of Ukraine by employees of the State Environmental Inspectorate systematically engaged in bribe solicitation.