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Captain and four shipping companies face legal action over 2009 Australian oil spill

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In light of an oil spill that occurred off the coast of southeast Queensland in 2009, a captain of a cargo ship and four companies are set to appear in court.

In March of last year, the cargo ship Pacific Adventurer, with Filipino national Bernardino Gonzales Santos at the helm, encountered bad weather, which resulted in its fuel tank being damaged by loose cargo, leading to the spillage 270,000 litres of oil into the Pacific Ocean. The oil later washed up on Sunshine Coast beaches as well as Moreton and Bribie islands and was dubbed "one of Australia's worse environmental disasters" by the media.

Santos and four companies behind Pacific Adventurer face individual counts of discharging oil into the ocean and can be fined a maximum of AU$1.75 million in the case of the companies, while Santos faces a $350,000 fine if found guilty.

Santos is also charged with not taking reasonable action following the incident.

Richard Kendall, an executive of one of the involved companies, Swire Shipping LTD, said today that "[w]e are deeply regretful. But we will vigorously defend the charges [...] We stand by Captain Santos, who is a first-class captain".

Like Swire Shipping, China Navigation Company LTD and Bluewing Shipping LTD, who are both joint owners of Pacific Adventurer, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

However, prosecutor Peter Davis stated that "[t]he prosecution's case is that the cause of the cargo going overboard was due to faulty lashings [...] By failing to maintain the lashings, the defendants acted recklessly," an act that prosecutors say should see the companies and captain pay.


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