Cargo Ship Captain, 4 Companies Charged in Oil Spill Off Australia

Capt. Bernardino Gonzales Santos of the cargo ship, PACIFIC ADVENTURER, along with the ship’s owner and manager were charged with disposal of oil in coastal water, and not reporting a spill. Capt. Santos is out on bail.

Containers on the Pacific Adventurer tumbled overboard in a March 2009 storm, piercing the hull of the ship, which spilled 71,300 gallons (270,000 liters) of oil in Queensland waters.

After the three-day hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court, defense attorney Tony Glynn entered pleas of not guilty for the accused.

Prosecutors argued during the hearing that the lashings holding the containers were faulty and gave way. Prosecutor Peter Davis said the defendants were reckless in failing to maintain the lashings.

Also charged with disposal of oil in coastal water are Swire Navigation Company Ltd. and Bluewind Shipping Ltd. Hong Kong, which both own 50 per cent of the Pacific Adventurer; the charterer, Swire Shipping Ltd.; and the manager, China Navigation Company Ltd.

If convicted, Santos faces a maximum fine of 350,000 Australian dollars ($297,000) and each of the four companies face a maximum fine of AU$1,750,000.