Oil spill charges

Foreign skipper faces court action


CAPTAIN of a foreign bulk carrier accused of spilling oil into the pristine waters of Graciosa Bay, Temotu Province, more than two weeks ago is facing charges in the High Court.

He is being charged under the country’s Maritime Regulations.

The Panama-registered vessel arrived in Graciosa Bay on 20 January 2021 to collect logs from an Asian logging company when it started spilling thick oil into the bay.

Government immediately dispatched a team to the site to assess the magnitude of the spill.

Director of Solomon Islands Maritime Association Thierry Nervale told the Island Sun yesterday the team returned to Honiara last Friday.

 “They’ve completed their assessment and are now compiling their report,” Nervale said.

“What I can tell you now is the master of the vessel has been charged and his ship detained,” he added.

Nervale said he and the team met with the Marine Pollution Advisory Committee to discuss and advise cleaning options and follow-up actions.

“We are now preparing for the cleaning along the coast and working to complete the inspection and investigation report as well as the impact assessment report.

Earlier Nervale confirmed that the oil spill was serious because it spread onto the coastal areas as well.

“What I can confirm is that it is serious enough and spread on the coast that it requires cleaning operations but should remain within our capacity in-country,” Nervale said.

Officials from SIMA with coordination support from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) were part of the team sent to assess the situation.

They were there to assess the impact of the oil spill, as well as inspect and investigate onboard the vessel.

Part (a) of the Solomon Islands Maritime Amendment Act 2018 general principles adopted the polluter pays principle – a clear provision stating that a person or entity who breach the law must pay for the damages.

Part (b) of the general principle states that in the event of a risk of damage to the marine environment or to human health, a lack of complete certainty regarding the extent of the risk is not a reason for not acting to prevent or minimise the risk.

If found guilty the Master will be liable to pay $50,000 penalty or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.

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