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Decision reserved on oil spill sentencing


13 AUGUST 2008

Decision reserved on oil spill sentencing

The companies responsible for a crude oil spill which polluted the Taranaki coastline last October appeared for sentencing in the New Plymouth District Court today.

Oil was discovered along a 13km stretch of coastline north and south of Okato, just south of New Plymouth, on 23 October 2007.

An investigation subsequently sourced the oil spilled from the offshore vessel Umuroa. Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) later charged the Tui oilfield operator Australian Worldwide Exploration (AWE), and Prosafe Production, which runs the floating production and storage offtake vessel Umuroa, with illegally discharging a harmful substance into the sea.

The companies were charged under section 237 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994. Section 237 makes it an offence to breach Section 226 of the Act, which states that a harmful substance (such as oil), must not be discharged or escape from a ship or offshore installation into the sea, except in accordance with marine protection rules.

Both companies made early guilty pleas to the charges, and AWE paid for the $115,000 clean-up undertaken by the Taranaki Regional Council.

Judge Thorburn heard submissions from counsel representing the two companies and MNZ today, and reserved his decision on penalty.

MNZ General Manager Marine Pollution Response Service Nick Quinn thanked the regional council, along with the Taranaki community, local specialist groups and iwi, who had all helped with the clean-up.

“These groups worked very hard to ensure the spill had as little impact on the local environment as possible. Their contribution and co-operation was invaluable to Maritime New Zealand and to the response operation’s ultimate success.”

Mr Quinn said the actions of AWE and Prosafe in quickly acknowledging the problem and assisting with the clean-up and investigation were also commendable.

MNZ Director Cath Taylor said it was pleasing to see the two companies taking responsibility for what had happened.

“From a regulatory point of view, it is good to see the offshore industry being accountable for its own actions.”


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