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Crown abandons appeal in case of MV Marathassa oil spill

The MV Marathassa, from above, as shown in the Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation as published by the Canadian Coast Guard.
The MV Marathassa, from above, as shown in the Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation as published by the Canadian Coast Guard. - Contributed

The federal Crown has decided not to appeal the acquittal in the case of the MV Marathassa, the cargo ship that spilled 2,700 litres of fuel oil into English Bay in 2015.

In February, a B.C. Provincial Court judge dismissed all charges against the ship after finding that the incident was caused by two shipbuilder defects on the newly-built ship.

In January 2017, the Cypriot-registered vessel, which had travelled from Korea to pick up a load of grain in Vancouver, had been accused of discharging a pollutant into the waters and with discharging a substance that was harmful to migratory birds.

The ship was also charged with failing to implement its shipboard pollution plan by failing to take samples of oil in the water and by failing to assist with the oil containment.

But following a lengthy trial, the judge concluded that the ship which had been built in Japan, a nation with a worldwide reputation for quality shipbuilding, was not to blame.

The judge found that at the ship had extensive pollution-prevention systems in place and had conducted a comprehensive crew selection and training program.

After the acquittal, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) filed a notice of appeal for the case to be heard in the B.C. Supreme Court. But the appeal was abandoned on March 15.

Asked to explain why the appeal was dropped, a media spokeswoman for the PPSC pointed to a protocol in which the Crown can file a “protective” notice of appeal before consultations are complete and a final decision is taken about proceeding with the appeal.

Peter Swanson, a lawyer for the ship, said that he understood the appeal was filed to preserve a time period in which appeals can be filed.

He said he was told that the Crown has an internal committee to review the merits of the appeal.

“And I’m told they decided it was not worth pursuing,” Swanson said Monday.

In addition to the regulatory case that went to court, there have been several proceedings aimed at recovery of the oil spill clean-up costs.

The Canadian Coast Guard and the department of fisheries and oceans, which had been seeking about $2.5 million in clean-up costs through a federally-regulated pollution fund, settled their claim last year for an undisclosed amount.

Last year then-Mayor Gregor Robertson raised concerns about the fact that the city of Vancouver was still fighting to recover $550,000 in clean-up costs through the federal pollution fund. City officials had no immediate comment Monday on the status of the city claim.

kfraser@postmedia.com

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By Keith Fraser

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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