A trial stemming from the cargo ship MV Marathassa spilling several thousand litres of bunker fuel near Vancouver's coastline begins next week.
The MV Marathassa and its owner, Alassia NewShips Management Inc., face 10 charges from the April 8, 2015 spill in English Bay, which discharged about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel into English Bay and the surrounding beaches:
- Six counts under the Canada Shipping Act, including contravening regulations, failing to implement an oil pollution emergency plan, and discharge of a pollutant.
- Two counts under the Fisheries Act.
- One count under the Canadian Environment Protection Act.
- One count under the Migratory Bird Convention Act.
Their first court appearance is scheduled for April 5 in Vancouver Provincial Court.
The response and recovery operation following the spill took 16 days. A Coast Guard-commissioned review into the spill found the Marathassa's owners slowed the reaction time to the emergency because they refused to admit the vessel was the source of the fuel spill. In total, there were 25 recommendations on how future marine spills could be handled.
Ship owner faces 10 charges over spill
The Globe and Mail (BC Edition)
30 Mar 2017
JUSTINE HUNTER VICTORIA SUNNY DHILLON VANCOUVER
Greece-based company could pay millions of dollars in fines after 2015 Marathassa incident prompted criticism of response system
The owner of the MV Marathassa, the bulk grain carrier that spilled thousands of litres of bunker fuel into Vancouver’s English Bay and revealed cracks in Canada’s marine-response system, has been charged with 10 pollution-related offences and could face fines in the millions of dollars.
The spill occurred in April, 2015, amid a heated debate over major pipeline projects and the risks associated with the increased tanker traffic they would bring.
It set off a cleanup effort that was beset by delays and miscommunication as fuel washed up at prized Vancouver beaches, including those around Stanley Park.
After a lengthy Transport Canada investigation, the Public Prosecution Service quietly laid charges against Greece-based Alassia NewShips Management Inc. and the Marathassa last month in B.C.’s Provincial Court. The company quickly responded with an application to Federal Court to delay the case on procedural grounds.
The charges were welcomed by the City of Vancouver and environmentalists, who decried the response to the spill as slow and inadequate.
Transport Canada, in a statement, said it conducted a thorough investigation of the MV Marathassa incident and recommended charges. The agency said it couldn’t comment further now that the case is before the courts.
Court records say the company and the ship have each been charged with six offences under the Canada Shipping Act, two offences under the Fisheries Act and one count each under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Convention Act.
The charges include unlawfully disposing of a substance and failure to implement an oil-pollution emergency plan.
A Public Prosecution Service spokesperson said the Canada Shipping Act offences each carry a maximum fine of $1-million and the single offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act carries a maximum fine of $4-million. Maximum sentences are rarely imposed.
A spokesperson for Alassia NewShips Management did not provide a response when asked for comment.
A review into the fuel spill, released in August, 2015, and conducted by a former Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner, found the response was delayed for nearly two hours as a result of miscommunication, technology woes and confusion over roles and responsibilities between the Coast Guard and its partners.
Transport Canada has not publicly disclosed just how much fuel was spilled, or how much of it was recovered. Shortly after the incident, the Coast Guard said about 2,700 litres of fuel had poured into the water, and crews recovered about 80 per cent within 36 hours.
The City of Vancouver issued a statement welcoming the charges.
“The city is supportive of efforts that will prevent future oil spills and make polluters responsible for their conduct,” the statement said.
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said in a statement that it would be inappropriate to comment on the charges since the matter is before the courts. But she said she was pleased to see the federal government is taking spill response seriously, as evidenced by its November announcement involving a $1.5-billion marine-protection plan.
Gavin Smith, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, said the charges were a positive development.
“We’re really pleased to see the federal government enforcing its environmental statutes. This isn’t always the case,” he said, pointing to a lack of charges thus far involving the August, 2014, mining disaster at Mount Polley, in central B.C.
But Mr. Smith said laying charges doesn’t clean up a spill or make spill risks disappear, and the prosecution should not “provide any cover” for the approval of other pipeline projects.
The first court date in the case is scheduled for April 5.
Alassia NewShips Management filed an application in Federal Court challenging the court summons outlining the charges. In its application, the company said the summons was delivered to two people who are not employees – it said one was a ship captain who has only worked for the company on two fixed-term contracts, while the other was an insurance adjuster who works for a different firm entirely.
The company argues the Provincial Court case should be stopped until the outcome of the judicial review of the summons is determined.
The lawyer who drafted the application did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
- Management Action Plan Dashboard - M/V Marathassa Environmental Response Operation
- Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation (July 2015)
- Marine Spills Contingency Plan
- Tank truck to marine vessel oil transfer manual
- CCG Environmental Response Program
The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for ensuring the clean-up of all oil, and other noxious substance spills in Canadian waters
Report a marine pollution incidentPursuant to section 132.(1) of the Vessel Pollution Dangerous Chemicals Regulations, all pollution or threats of pollution must be reported by vessels and Oil Handling Facility operators. These reports must be made in accordance with the Guidelines for Reporting Incidents Involving Dangerous Goods, Harmful Substances and / or Marine Pollutants, TP9834.
Incidents may be reported by contacting an MCTS center or by calling VHF Channel 16
When calling in a Spill Report, you will may be asked to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Telephone number
- Location of the spill
- Quantity of the spill
- Type of product spilled
- On scene weather
International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and CooperationCanada is signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC). Under this agreement, Canada can be called upon to provide assistance to a marine pollution incident to other signatory states. Likewise, Canada could call upon other signatory states for assistance in a major incident. More information on the OPRC convention is provided by the International Maritime Organization.
Marine Spills Contingency PlanThe Environmental Response Marine Spills Contingency Plan defines the scope and framework within which the Canadian Coast Guard will operate to ensure a response to marine pollution incidents.
See the Marine spills contingency plan.
Please note that the recent announcement regarding Canada’s new national “Oceans Protection Plan” signifies the launch of several initiatives aimed at augmenting and improving the Canadian Coast Guard’s marine pollution preparedness and response systems. As such, the Marine Spills Contingency Plan will be updated periodically as these initiatives become implemented.
Joint Marine Pollution Contingency PlanCanada-US Joint Marine Spills Contingency Plan
The Canadian Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard Office of Response are the custodians of the Canada-United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan. The purpose of this plan is to outline and define the roles and responsibilities of the various players who would participate in the cleanup efforts of a marine pollution incident occurring in the contiguous waters between Canada and the United-States.
Canada also has international agreements with other countries, such as France for St. Pierre and Miquelon and Denmark for Greenland, that share contiguous waters.
The Canadian Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for the response component of Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Preparedness Response Regime. The Environmental Response program monitors or manages the clean-up efforts for any ship-source or mystery source pollution incident in waters under Canadian jurisdiction.
The Canadian Coast GuardThe Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is a special operating agency of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It owns and operates the federal government’s civilian fleet and provides key maritime services to Canadians. CCG’s responsibilities include: maritime safety; protection of marine and freshwater environments; facilitation of maritime commerce and sustainable development; and support of marine scientific excellence.
The CCG’s Environmental Response (ER) program’s mission is to ensure an appropriate level of preparedness and response capability for all ship-source and mystery source pollution incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. To that end, CCG implements a consistent approach for responding to marine pollution incidents in all regions of Canada. ER’s specific mission objectives are to:
- Minimize the impact of marine pollution incidents on public safety;
- Minimize the environmental impact of marine pollution incidents; and,
- Minimize the economic impact of marine pollution incidents.
Responding to Pollution
Response OperationsThe CCG is the lead federal agency for all ship-source oil spills or pollution incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. When the polluter has been identified and is willing and able to respond, the CCG will advise the polluter of its responsibilities and, once satisfied with the polluter’s intentions and plans, will assume the role of Federal Monitoring Officer (FMO). However, in cases where the polluter is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond, the CCG will assume the overall management of the incident as On-Scene Commander (OSC). In all cases, CCG ER will ensure an appropriate response.
National Support Team
The National Support Team (NST) exists to:
- Coordinate the augmentation of CCG’s monitoring or response operations to a marine pollution incident through the cascading of human and material resources from across Canada and abroad;
- Provide international assistance to a marine pollution incident;
- Provide humanitarian aid in response to a natural or man-made disaster.
Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime
In 1993, amendments to the Canada Shipping Act led to the creation of a network of private sector oil spill response organizations. Funded and operated by the private sector, the regime was established in 1995 to enable industry to respond to oil spills of up to 10 000 tonnes in Canadian waters south of 60 degrees north latitude. All oil tankers of 150 tonnes gross tonnage and all other vessels of 400 tonnes gross tonnage trading in Canadian waters, as well as oil handling facilities located within Canadian jurisdiction, must have an arrangement with a response organization. These arrangements are administered by Transport Canada as part of their responsibility for the overall Canadian Oil Spill Response Regime.
In the event of an oil spill or other pollution incident in Canadian waters, CCG must be prepared to respond in a timely and efficient manner. In accordance with the Emergency Management Act, the CCG is required to develop and maintain a National Response Plan. This Plan defines the roles and responsibilities of the CCG and various government and industry agencies, as well as outlines the operational framework through which a response would be conducted.
Ultimately, the responsibility for marine pollution preparedness and response is shared between industry and the federal government. The CCG is dedicated to doing its part to protect and preserve the marine environment and its resources.
Training and ExercisingIt is critical that the personnel responding to a marine oil spill incident have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform effectively. The specific training requirements for ER personnel are detailed in the National Training Plan, the operational aspects of which are implemented by all regions and detailed in their respective Regional Response Plans. The CCG ER training program consists of several separate courses as well as refresher training. The National Exercise Program is implemented to validate environmental response preparedness. Exercises are designed and conducted in coordination with clients, other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, energy boards, and other interested stakeholders.
As signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC 90), Canada provides advisory services, technical support, and equipment for the purpose of responding to a pollution incident outside of Canadian waters when requested. The CCG, in conjunction with the appropriate federal departments and agencies, administers these services. The CCG ER headquarters, in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, is responsible for the expeditious movement and repatriation of Canadian resources.
In addition, CCG ER is responsible for the provision of the Canadian coordination of Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plans with neighbouring countries. At present, such plans have been signed with both the United States and France, and are being negotiated with Denmark and the Russian Federation.
In accordance with the Marine Liability Act, the owner of a ship is strictly liable for oil pollution damage including reasonable costs for clean-up, monitoring, preventative measures, and reinstatement measures. This is referred to as the “polluter-pay principle.”
Three funds may assist in paying for oil pollution clean-up costs. The Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF) is Canada’s domestic fund and is under an independent administration. It is liable for claims relating to oil pollution damage, costs and expenses of oil spill clean-up, and preventative measures and monitoring from all classes of vessels. In addition, a widely defined class of persons in the Canadian fishing industry may claim against the SOPF for loss of income caused by an oil spill from a ship and not otherwise recoverable under the Marine Liability Act.
The 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC Fund) and the 1992 Civil Liability Convention (CLC) provide the international liability and compensation regime for pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers, whether carried on board as cargo or in bunkers. Under the CLC regime the owners of a tanker are liable to pay compensation up to a certain limit for oil pollution damage following an escape of persistent oil from their ship. If that amount does not cover all admissible claims, further compensation is available from the IOPC Fund if the damage occurs in a contracting state. The IOPC Fund is financed by levies paid by entities that receive certain types of oil in the ports of contracting states.
For more information, please contact:
Manager, Environmental Response
Canadian Coast Guard
5th Floor, Centennial Towers
200 Kent Street
Facsimile: (613) 996-8428