Filipino Captain Charged in New Zealand Oil Spill

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 9:55 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The captain of a cargo ship grounded on a reef off New Zealand's coast has appeared in court in connection with environmental damage caused by the fuel oil leaking from the ship.

The Filipino national appeared in a court Wednesday in New Zealand's port city of Tauranga and was charged with operating a vessel in a way that caused unnecessary risk. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of about $7,800 or 12 months in prison. He was released on bail.

The Liberian-flagged cargo ship Rena, loaded with about 1,700 tons of oil hit the reef off New Zealand's North Island on October 5. Maritime officials say the ship's condition is deteriorating due to high waves and strong winds, and about 70 containers fell overboard.

Officials said between 130 and 350 tons of oil gushed from the container vessel's ruptured hull during the past 24 hours in the Bay of Plenty.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the oil spill from the 47,000-ton container vessel has created the worst environmental maritime disaster it New Zealand's history.

Health officials have ordered residents to stay off the beaches and out of the sea, and not to touch anything with oil on it.