German firm faces $30,000 fine for harbour oil spill

By Sandra Conchie

Regional council officers inspecting the oil leak from the Liloa. Photo/Supplied
Regional council officers inspecting the oil leak from the Liloa. Photo/Supplied

The German owners of the container ship Liloa have been fined $30,000 for spilling 1000 litres of heavy fuel oil into Tauranga Harbour.

Schifffahrtsgesellschaft MS 'Jule' was sentenced in the Environment Court at Tauranga yesterday after the defendants earlier admitted a charge that a harmful substance was discharged into a coastal marine area. The maximum penalty for this type of offence is a fine of $600,000.

The oil spilled over the ship's deck and into the water during bunkering (refuelling) at the Port of Tauranga on July 3, 2013 and was mainly due to confusion between the chief engineer and second engineer about which tank should be refuelled.

The second engineer mistakenly directed the fuel oil be pumped into the No2 tank. By the time the Harbour Master arrived there was an oil slick stretching towards Mount Maunganui and among the boats on swing moorings at Pilot Bay, and a 100m by 600m oil sheen on the water around the ship's stern.

The next day there was a thicker, concentrated oily sheen at the northern end of Pilot Bay and light oil residues on the beach, the court was told.

Maritime NZ identified five deficiencies, including the ship's safety management system, which did not ensure the engineers followed proper bunkering procedures.

Stephen Park, a regional council environmental scientist, reported the spill had the potential to cause serious ecological damage and the outgoing tide may have lessened the overall effects.

Judge Jeff Smith took into account that the ship's owners had already paid the $17,107.96 cost of the clean-up response and had no prior relevant convictions.

Regional Council's pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman said he hoped this prosecution served as a warning to other vessel owners about the need to follow correct procedures.

Green Party spokesman Ian McLean said there should be measures in place to prevent such incidents from happening. "Any fine should have a sufficient sting to be a deterrent to other vessel owners and crew."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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