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Antares oil spill appeal dismissed

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Antares oil spill appeal dismissed

Two overseas companies, convicted and subsequently fined $70,000 for oil pollution offences in Christchurch’s Lyttelton Harbour, have lost their appeal against their conviction and fines.

The two companies - Cometa United Corporation of Panama and Tradewood Shipping Co SAS of Italy, were earlier this year convicted and fined for discharges of around 400 litres of light fuel oil during the refuelling of the Antares - a small bulk carrier on its way from South America to Australia. At the time of the offence, in October 2004, Cometa was the owner of the ship and Tradewood Shipping the manager.

In appealing against their convictions, the lawyer for the companies argued a legal loophole centred around their status as companies, which, he argued, removed them from the jurisdiction of the New Zealand courts. This argument was however dismissed by High Court Judge John Fogarty, saying it was not necessary to prove their corporate status.

As for the appeal against the severity of the fine, Judge Fogarty pointed out that there were two oil spills, and that the bunkering rate was not reduced after the first spill, thereby causing the second spill. He saw these factors as aggravating circumstances. He also pointed out that the maximum fine for this type of offence was $200,000 and concluded that he did not consider the $70,000 fine to be manifestly excessive.

The chairman of Environment Canterbury’s regulation hearings committee, Cr Alec Neill says it’s a very important outcome for protecting the region’s harbours from polluters. “The original fines imposed sent a clear and significant message to all shipping companies regarding the consequences of oil spills in our harbours. The appeal judge has endorsed that message. This is an important precedent emphasising the need for the protection of our harbours,” Cr Neill says.

Ends


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