Rena oil spill: captain facing further charges

By Jamie Morton, Herald Online staff

The captain of the stricken container ship Rena had his name suppressed when he appeared in court today. Photo / APN
The captain of the stricken container ship Rena had his name suppressed when he appeared in court today. Photo / APN

Further charges are expected to be laid against the man in charge of the cargo ship Rena when it ran aground off the coast of Tauranga, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says.

Mr Joyce said the new charges were likely to be laid against the Rena captain, who has name suppression, when he next appears in court.

He did not elaborate on what the new charges would be.

The captain of the ship that has caused the environmental disaster appeared in court today - but his name and the address where he is being kept has been made secret.

This morning, it also emerged that the day of the crash last Wednesday was the 44-year-old Filipino man's birthday.

The MV Rena's captain, who is being held in custody and is understood to have been remanded in the Rotorua Police Custodial Facility, appeared in Tauranga District Court flanked by two police officers and watched on by a public gallery packed with media.

He is facing a charge under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act of operating a vessel causing unnecessary danger or risk to a person or property, carrying a maximum penalty of $10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

Clad in thick orange high-visibility jacket overalls and with an unshaved, visibly wary face, the captain gazed blankly at his feet as his lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, asked Judge Robert Wolff that he be granted interim name suppression.

"There is a real potential that some persons may want to take matters into their own hands and it services no purpose at all that this man is accosted, attacked or in any way interfered with, because that would indirectly interfere with the process of this court," Mr Mabey told the court.

Mr Mabey asked the captain be bailed to a secret address and be asked to report to a police station daily between 9am and noon in order to assist the salvage owners.

At times when he was required on the Rena, he would not be able to attend.

Police did not oppose Mr Mabey's requests for name suppression order and bail conditions, but Judge Wolff allowed the man's age, race and pixellated photograph to be published.

About a dozen photographers and cameraman had been waiting outside the court for the man to be brought in in a police van, while at least 20 reporters and photographers sat inside the small courtroom.

Extra police were also brought in to stand watch around the courthouse.

"It is important to make the public understand the process that is happening and pixellate images of you appearing in court are permissable," Judge Wolff said.

"General details as to your age, race and occupation are also admissable for the reason that they are of course readily discoverable, but in order to protect you from others who would interfere with this and to protect the integrity of the court process.. I'm sure everyone present would realise that due process with law is the appropriate way to deal with what has happened... in this case I make those orders."

The man has also been ordered to surrender his passport and not to apply for any travel documents.

He will reappear in the court on October 19, when further charges may be laid.

- NZ Herald

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