Halifax: Norwegian Bulk Carrier Charged With Dumping Oil

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Monday, October 16, 2000

Bulk carrier charged with dumping oil By ALISON AULD-- The Canadian Press

HALIFAX (CP) -- A Norwegian bulk carrier has been charged with spilling thousands of litres of oil in a fragile marine area off Nova Scotia.

The Sandviken was charged Monday with dumping pollutants into Canadian waters and faces a fine of up to $1 million if convicted, said Paul Doucet, a Transport Canada spokesman.

Doucet said a representative for the vessel must appear in provincial court on Nov. 7 to face the charges.

The ship, now thought to be outside Toronto and heading toward the Great Lakes, was boarded last week by federal officers after a 12.8-kilometre slick coated a sensitive area about 57 kilometres southwest of Yarmouth, N.S.

Officials from Environment Canada tracked the spill from a helicopter and said it appeared to have dissipated and thinned out over a stretch of water used by thousands of migratory birds.

Doucet said he didn't think any oiled birds had been recovered, but added they might have sank or not washed up since the spill occurred far from shore. That could make it difficult to assess the slick's environmental impact.

Roger Percy of Environment Canada said oil hadn't washed ashore, but warned the spill could carry lasting effects for marine life, such as the gannets, shearwaters and jaegers that pass through the area on their migrations south and north.

"It has impacts over the longer term in relation to bird populations because it's a migratory path," Percy said Monday.

"It's an important area, but to know the actual impact is hard to do."

Transport Canada officers boarded the Sandviken at Escoumins, Que., west of Anticosti Island, last week to investigate how the 2,000 to 3,000 litres of oily bilge water were released Wednesday.

The officers stayed on the vessel as it steamed down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, carrying a load of steel.

Kgell Stelhander, a spokesman with Vikin Lakers of Bergen, Norway, disputed the size of the spill, saying only 100 litres of oil mixed with bilge water went into the ocean.

He said the spill was an accident caused by the breakdown of a unit that separates oil from the bilge water kept in ballast tanks on the 34,000-tonne carrier.

Doucet, who rated the spill as "mid-range" for its size, said officials will continue looking into possible environmental effects as part of their investigation.

Fines of up to $1 million can be levied against ships that spill oily water from their bilge tanks, but most judges have awarded much smaller penalties.

Four vessels were prosecuted over a three-month period last summer for unlawful discharges, resulting in fines of only $42,000 in total.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), October 16, 2000

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