V Ship takes a hit over OWS

V.Ships hit by bulk of Maersk Barcelona fine
By Andrew Spuurier- Lloyd's List, Thursday April 06 2006

A COURT in Brest has imposed a record E800,000 fine on the master and manager of Maersk Barcelona for pollution off the French Atlantic coast but shipmanager V.Ships will bear 90% of the penalty.

Passing judgment after a hearing on February 1, the court went beyond the E600,000 fine called for by the public prosecutor for the 61 km slick, despite the claim of the Ukrainian master's defense that it had been due to a "sudden and unexpected breakdown of the vessel's waste water separator".

But unusually, 90% of the fine is to be borne not by the vessel's owner, the KG company Munia Mobiliengesellschaft, but by the vessel's technical manager, V.Ships. V.Ships confirmed this but was unable to explain why the court had imposed the fine on it rather than on the vessel's owner. It said that it would, however, be appealing against the judgment.

The 1975-built, 2,328 teu Bahamas flagged vessel was spotted by a French customs service aircraft at the head of the slick 160 kms off the tip of Brittany last September 20. The ship, which was en route from Antwerp to Gioia Tauro, was ordered into the port of Brest for inspection and only released after payment of E500,000 bail.

An inspector from the Brest ship safety centre told the court in February that he had never seen a waste water separator in such a poor state and the prosecutor said, "We are not in the presence of an accident but of a lack of maintenance of the oily water separator."

V.Ships said after the incident that the vessel had undergone a full flag state inspection, including an examination of its oily water separator, in Antwerp on September 19 and that no deficiencies had been found. There were reports that an alarm had gone off aboard the vessel on the day the vessel was arrested, however, indicating the possibility of a malfunction. The separator was shut down after the alarm had sounded but was thought to have been functioning for two hours prior to this.

Here is some more insight from the French government on the subject of polution enforcement.