Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shipping Line Fined Millions For Pollution and Conspiracy

Cost of Worst California Oil Spill in 20 Years Continues - and More to Come
Shipping News Feature

US - In July we reported on the imprisonment of John Joseph Cota, the negligent California pilot who steered the container ship MV Cosco Busan into the San Francisco Bay bridge causing a huge oil spillage and the subsequent death of thousands of sea birds. Now the Courts have fined the vessels management company for systematic management failures and attempting to conceal the facts of their conduct.

Fleet Management Ltd., the Hong Kong company were charged with concealing true ships records and supplying the authorities with forged berth to berth passage plans created subsequent to the incident in November 2007 involving a complex web of conspiracy between the ships master, its officers and shore side superintendents. Charts were falsified and safety and navigational checklists constructed to mitigate the part played by the company’s employees and deceive the investigators.

The facts were admitted by the company with a guilty plea in August last year and now the Court have fined the company $10 million and awarded $2 million of that to fund environmental works in the area. The birds which died included endangered varieties of Pelicans and the incident caused outrage at the time amongst local environmentalist groups.

Fleet Management have also to implement a comprehensive plan to ensure such incidents do no reoccur. This involves training staff at all levels to ensure proper navigational plans are in place on every company ship, all crews with navigational responsibilities are fully prepared and familiar with the requirements. The Court will audit the process to ensure compliance.

The company’s misery may not yet be over. When the vessel shed over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Bay it damaged the livelihoods of many in the local fishing community. Private prosecution lawsuits for compensation for these cases are believed to be ongoing.