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Satellite evidence used in tanker case

  • Friday, 11 October 2013 | News
Satellite evidence used in tanker case Photo: EMSA MDA

The UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) says that it has, for the first time, successfully used satellite imagery as primary evidence in a maritime pollution prosecution.

Maersk Tankers Singapore has paid a total of £22,500 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a breach of UK legislation at Truro Magistrates Court.

On 25 February 2012, a satellite operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) detected a ship trailing a slick in the waters between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles. A report was made to the MCA.

The ship was identified as the Singapore-registered tanker Maersk Kiera. The slick itself was within 12 miles of land.

When contacted by Falmouth Coastguard, the Master of the Maersk Kiera confirmed that the vessel was undertaking tank cleaning and associated discharge following carriage of a cargo of palm oil, but that it was complying with international requirements.

Under the Dangerous or Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk Regulations 1996 (SI 3010), discharge of palm oil slops is only permissible over 12 miles from the nearest land.

Maersk said that its vessel had had stopped cleaning tanks before it was within 13.5 miles of the coast. However, the satellite imagery showed a slick trailing behind the vessel when it was within 12 miles of land.

Following this the owners of the tanker admitted a breach of the UK Pollution Legislation. They were fined £15,000 with a £120 victim surcharge and prosecution costs of £7404.88 were awarded.

Captain Jeremy Smart, head of enforcement at the MCA, said: “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.”

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