At a hearing today at Truro Magistrates Court in the UK, Maersk Tankers Singapore was ordered to pay a total of £22,500 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a breach of UK maritime pollution legislation.
For the first time ever, satellite imagery was used as primary evidence in a maritime pollution case brought about by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
On 25 February 2012 a satellite operated by European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) detected the Singapore-registered Maersk Kiera trailing a slick in the waters between Lands End and the Scilly Isles.
According to the MCA, the vessel was contacted by Falmouth Coastguard to query whether they were carrying out tank cleaning operations as they had satellite imagery of oil traces in the track of the Maersk Kiera. The Master confirmed to Falmouth Coastguard that tank cleaning and associated discharge following a cargo of palm oil was indeed being undertaken, but that they were complying with International requirements.
Under the Dangerous or Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk Regulations 1996 (SI 3010) discharge of palm oil slops is permissible subject to certain conditions however, one of those conditions is that the discharge occur beyond 12 miles from the nearest land.
Satellite imagery confirmed the slick was inside that mark and Maersk Tankers eventually admitted that a break of the UK Pollution Legislation had taken place.
Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of Enforcement at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, commented on the case:
“This is the first time satellite imagery has been successfully used as primary evidence in a maritime pollution prosecution brought by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Agency will use all means available to identify and prosecute those carrying out illegal discharges within the UK Pollution Control Zone.”
The following is a video of the Maersk Kiera taken approximately one week prior to the incident.