The master of a Swire controlled ship involved in a high profile oil spill off Australia last year is set to deny a criminal pollution charge.
Bernardino Gonzales Santos the 48 year old Filipino master of the 24,000-dwt multipurpose vessel Pacific Adventurer (built 1991) appeared in a Brisbane court today accused of discharging oil into the sea off Queensland.
Santos faces a fine of AUD 350,000 ($294,000) if convicted. Four companies Swire Shipping, Swire Navigation, China Navigation and Blue Wind Shipping associated with the Pacific Adventurer are potentially looking at fines of AUD1.75m each of found guilty, so a total of AUD 7m ($5.9m).
Swire Shipping chief executive, Richard Kendall, said the charges would be “vigorously defended” by the master and the companies and described Santos as “a first class captain.”
Prosecutors claim that there was a reckless failure to maintain the Pacific Adventurer’s container lashings leading to 31 boxes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser being lost during cyclone Hamish in March 2009.
One or more of the containers subsequently punctured the hull leading to the discharge of 270 tonnes of oil.
Swire Navigation and Bluewind Shipping are the joint owners of the Pacific Adventurer, Swire Shipping is the charterer while China Navigation is the shipmanager.
Compensation totalling AUD 27m ($22.5m), almost double the amount the ship was legally entitled to limit liability at was paid last year after a fierce onslaught on Swire by Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh. She threatened to ban the Hong Kong based group from doing business in the state and introduce a “Swire levy” on visiting vessels.
The Pacific Adventurer, since renamed the Pacific Mariner, has protection and indemnity cover from the Standard Club.