Prosecution over oil spill unlikely

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE CAPTAIN of the Braer tanker, who was blamed this week for the oil spill on Shetland last January, is unlikely to face prosecution.

Shetland Islands Council is consulting lawyers in an effort to bring charges against Capt Alexandros Gelis, and the Crown Office in Edinburgh is studying a government report published on Thursday which accused him of 'a fundamental lack of basic seamanship and serious dereliction of duty'.

But legal sources said yesterday that although there was strong evidence that Capt Gelis, 46, had committed offences under the Merchant Shipping and Prevention of Oil Pollution Acts, it would be 'almost impossible' to bring him to trial because of the incident's international nature.

'Any attempt to act against the Greek captain of a Liberian-registered vessel owned by a US-based company would probably get bogged down in endless proceedings that would almost certainly not succeed,' Professor Thomas Walde, director of the Centre for Petroluem Law, said.

Unless Capt Gelis returned to UK territorial waters, an indictment could not be served. He could not be extradited. Capt Gelis is currently at sea in the Mediterranean.

The Braer drifted on to rocks at Garths Ness and broke up on 5 January, discharging 85,000 tonnes of light crude oil which killed birds and polluted salmon farms. The clean- up operation cost pounds 2.5m.

The report said Capt Gelis was negligent in failing to ensure that his crew kept a proper watch and took no action to secure loose steel pipes which damaged vital equipment.