Oil leak ship’s third mate now in investigators’ spotlight

Publish date: August 5, 2009

LANGESUND, Norway – The third mate of the Full City cargo ship that ran aground off the coast of southeast Norway near Telmark last Friday, shedding more than 200 tons of heavy oil into waters near nature preserves, has been determined by Norwegian authorities to be a suspect in the accident.

The third mate of the Chinese crew that was piloting the Panama-registered Full City was on watch when the boat ran into trouble in the early hours of last Friday, Siri Karlsen, a prosecutor in the Telmark Police District told a press conference on Wednesday in Langesund.

Oil from the boat was already reaching some of Norway’s most pristine shores by Saturday, Bellona observers said from the site. The organisation has been critical of the government and its reaction to the spill for ignoring its warnings that southern Norway must be allocated funding for outfitting a cargo ship emergency unit in the area.

‘Full City’s’ captain indicted
“Full City’s” captain had already been indicted for violating Norway’s Ship Safety Act, Section 37, which pertains to breach of duty to report hazards to human heath or possible pollution.

Bellona also wants to see the captain indicted for violating of Section 15 of the Safety Act, which deals with security issues while a given officer is on watch, as it has now become clear that the third mate watch head of the watch from midnight on Friday until the accident occurred.

“As it stands now, it would be correct for the police to indict the third mate for violating section 15 of the Shipping Act,” said Bellona’s Sigurd Enge, and captain of Bellona’s “Kalinika” vessel, which has been present at the site since the accident occurred.

“The police are holding their cards close to their chests, but we are following the investigation closely,” he said.

Eager to learn engineer’s fate
“Full City’s” engineer was to be questioned yesterday, and Enge is eager to learn the outcome.

“When you look at the ship’s drive path, it is clear that the progress the propulsion machinery was never put to use, which may suggest that the ship has not been seaworthy when it anchored,” said Enge.

“In such rough weather conditions (as prevailed on the night of the accident) this must be regarded as gross negligence by both the engineer and the captain,” he said.

Exact figures
The police also reported the exact quantity of oil that was on board the ship when it ran aground. “Full City” had bunkered up in Skagen some days before the wreck, and was thus almost full of oil.

Some 1013.7 cubic meters of oil and 121.2 cubic metres of diesel and 24 tons of lubricating oil were on board the police said.

As regards “slurry,” the highly toxic waste product of heavy oil, it remains unclear, police said, how much was on board. The vessels tanks hold some 200 cubic meters.

The Norwegian ship towing firm Bukser and Berging has now assumed responsibility for the ship, and the remaining crew on board will be brought into Norway today.

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