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SIGNIFICANT SHORTS : Sea Empress pilot is demoted

The ship's pilot on the `Sea Empress' supertanker when it ran aground on rocks, causing a major oil slick, was yesterday demoted by his employers. John Pearn, 34, was disciplined by Milford Haven Port Authority after a two-day inquiry into the accident. The Liberian-registered 147,000 tonne vessel caused massive pollution, spilling around 70,000 tonnes of oil into the sea in February.

Mr Pearn, in charge of guiding the tanker to the Texaco oil refinery, will not now be able to handle ships of more than 90,000 tonnes. Officials of the port authority said he had been found guilty of incompetence but not misconduct. Lawyers for Mr Pearn said he would appeal against the findings. Estimates for the clean-up operation, the environmental and economic costs, are put at up to pounds 70m by industry experts.