Captain to stand trial over Australian oil spill

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The Independent Online

A cargo ship captain and four companies, including a British firm, were ordered today to stand trial over an oil spill off Australia's coast.

After the three-day hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court, defence lawyer Tony Glynn entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of Manila-based Captain Bernardino Gonzales Santos and the ship's owners and manager.

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

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.

Capt Santos is charged with disposal of oil in coastal water and not reporting a spill.

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

Swire Shipping chief executive Richard Kendall said outside court that the outcome of the hearing was expected.

"We are deeply regretful. But we will vigorously defend the charges," he said. "We stand by Captain Santos, who is a first-class captain."

Magistrate Elizabeth Hall did not set a trial date.

Swire Shipping is a wholly owned UK-based subsidiary of the China Navigation Company, which is registered in the UK. Swire Navigation is affiliated with Swire Shipping.