Marathassa cleared of pollution charges; civil compensation case continues

Cargo ship Marathassa (IMO 9698862) has been acquitted of the last charges she faced relating to a spill that saw 2,700 litres of bunker fuel dumped into Vancouver’s English Bay on April 8th 2015.

Judge Kathryn Denhoff acquitted the ship of charges under the Canada Shipping Act, ruling that, while the ship had discharged a pollutant, she accepted the ship’s defence that it used due diligence.

The vessel’s owner, Alassia NewShips Management of Greece, did not face trial on any of them because the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled it had not been properly served with a summons.

She found that the discharge came from shipbuilder defects, which neither the owner nor crew could have discovered beforehand on the brand new vessel. The judge also said that the ship had a comprehensive safety system in place, far exceeding the industry standard. The judge found that the spill was caused by a faulty valve and that an alarm designed to alert the crew was not properly installed. The ship, built in Japan, was only three weeks old.

The judge said that the hazards in this case were not foreseeable.

The Marathassa, the crew and Transport Canada reasonably expected that the brand new vessel would not be suffering from such defects.

Denhoff also ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that the ship and her crew failed to implement an oil pollution emergency plan. She also noted that “given the extensive training, verification and ongoing monitoring of the crew, the Marathassa took all reasonable steps to ensure that the crew followed the requirements of the emergency plan”.

The ship was also acquitted on one charge under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Originally 10 pollution-related charges were laid against the MV Marathassa and its owner, Alassia NewShips Management of Greece. An acquittal of the ship on a charge under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is currently under appeal.

The clean-up and response effort lasted nearly six months, including more than two weeks of shoreline clean-up. After the spill, then-minister of fisheries and oceans Gail Shea promised to seek damages from the Marathassa. “The polluter pay principle means that the polluting vessel is responsible for the costs of cleaning up the mess they left in English Bay. Our government will aggressively pursue compensation,” she said at the time.

The Canadian government had charged Marathassa with discharging a pollutant; discharging a substance harmful to migratory birds; failing to implement her shipboard pollution plan; and failing to assist with containment efforts.

After the ruling, the City of Vancouver said in a statement that it would still pursue a civil claim for compensation due to the spill. “The city’s claim for compensation is under the Marine Liability Act, which imposes a different standard of liability”, adding that “accordingly, the city does not anticipate that the court’s decision will have any impact on its cost recovery claims.”

2015-built, Cyprus-flagged, 43,229 gt Marathassa is owned by Marathassa Shipping Corp care of manager Alassia Newships Management Inc of Athens, Greece. It is entered with Standard Club (European division) on behalf of Marathassa Shipping Corp.