Heavier fines for Australian oil spills


Ship owners whose vessels violate Australia’s strict penalties for oil spill face a near ten-fold increase in fines, according to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.The top fine will increase from Aus $1.75m to Aus $10m ($9.3m) and the maximum charge for individuals will go up from Aus $350,000 to Aus $500,000. “Nothing but the greatest attention to safety and care will be tolerated,” Ms Bligh warned.

The move follows the grounding last week of the 1993-built, 69,110 dwt Chinese flag Shen Neng 1. The incident prompted Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to declare that “the book would be thrown” at any foreign vessel or vessel violating the proper protection of the Great barrier Reef.

Despite fears of a major ecological disaster it is reported that most of the fuel oil onboard has been removed and transport minister Anthony Albanese said a decision on refloating the vessel could be made today,

However, Mr Albanese added: “It is quite clear this vessel went on a course that was unlawful. The Australian government will ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear on those responsible … and we will also ensure compensation is paid with regard to the cost of cleaning up.”

*The South Korean master and two Vietnamese officers from the 2007-built, 50,000 dwt Mimosa were charged in court today with entering a prohibited zone of the reef without permission while en route to Abbot Point Coal Terminal in Queensland. The trio, who face maximum fines of Aus $220,000, were granted bail and told to return to court on Friday.