A Federal Court judge has rejected an application for judicial review filed by a Greece-based company facing charges in a 2015 fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay, saying it must make its case in British Columbia Supreme Court.
The bulk-grain carrier MV Marathassa and Alassia NewShips Management Inc. each face 10 charges, including discharge of a pollutant and failure to implement an oil-pollution emergency plan and are scheduled to appear in B.C. Provincial Court on Wednesday.
Alassia had asked the Federal Court to set aside summonses and declare that attempts to serve the documents by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the Attorney-General were invalid.
Alassia lawyer Peter Swanson said on Tuesday a summons for the Marathassa has been accepted, but orders to appear addressed to his client were wrongfully served to a Canadian insurance adjuster and a ship captain who didn’t work for the company.
Lisa Laird, lawyer for Canada’s Attorney-General, argued the question of whether the service was valid should be decided by a B.C. court and Federal Court Justice Glennys McVeigh agreed.
Alassia did not make anyone available for comment on Tuesday. In a statement, the company thanked those who assisted in the response and said it would not discuss legal proceedings “out of respect for the process.”
The April, 2015, event saw about 2,700 litres of fuel spill into English Bay and about 80 per cent was recovered within 36 hours, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. But while the amount of oil spilled was relatively small, the dense, Bunker C oil is highly toxic, and dark globules of the substance were found along several of the city’s most prized beaches – including Sunset, English Bay, First and Second – and as far away as New Brighton Park, roughly 12 kilometres from the spill site.
The fuel spill shone a light on potential weaknesses in the country’s marine-response system at a time when major pipeline projects were being hotly debated. Critics of such projects – such as the recently approved Trans Mountain pipeline project, which would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline and increase oil tanker traffic – have used such relatively small accidents to make the point of how difficult it would be to deal with larger spills.
A review by former Coast Guard assistant commissioner John Butler found the response to the Marathassa spill was delayed for nearly two hours due to miscommunication, technological issues and confusion over responsibilities between the Coast Guard and its partners.
Both Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Premier Christy Clark had criticized the response time; Mr. Robertson noted the city was not notified until 12 hours after the spill was first reported.
Court records say the company and the ship have each been charged with six offences under the Canada Shipping Act, two offences under the Fisheries Act and one count each under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Convention Act.
The Canada Shipping Act offences each carry a maximum fine of $1-million and the single offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act carries a maximum fine of $4-million. Maximum sentences are rarely imposed.
With files from Andrea WooReport Typo/Error