New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Rena captain apologises for disaster

The captain of the ship Rena, which grounded off the New Zealand coast, has offered an apology for causing the country's worst environmental disaster, and for trying to cover up his involvement.
Mauro Balomaga, 44, was deported to the Philippines earlier this month after serving three months in prison.
He and navigation officer Leonil Relon, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this year to wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering the ship's documents after it grounded, operating a vessel in a manner likely to cause danger and discharging a contaminant.
The 236-metre, 37,000-tonne cargo ship struck the Astrolabe Reef in the early hours of October 5 last year, spilling about 360 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea, which washed up on local beaches and killed wildlife.
Balomaga told the New Zealand Herald he felt guilty for his actions and did not realise the grounding would spark a disaster on such a scale.
"During the course of the interviews and the investigations, we did apologise on the record, but that was for the safe-keeping of the authorities, and not for the public," he said, offering an apology to New Zealanders.
Balomaga said the ship's grounding was "really unexpected" - even though the reef showed up on the ship's radar 15 minutes beforehand.
"We thought we may not be able to save it completely, but we could limit the damage and we could save the ship ... That was our thinking initially."
Balomaga said he was hopeful of returning to New Zealand one day to thank local Filipinos who supported him while in prison.
The skeleton of the Rena remains on the reef with contractors salvaging the metal and removing containers from the seabed.
The owners of the Rena, Greece-based Daina Shipping Company, are due in Tauranga District Court on the anniversary of the grounding, October 5, to face charges under the Resource Management Act 1991 for the "discharge of harmful substances from ships" in the coastal marine area.
The charge carries a maximum fine of $600,000 and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.
Source: The Age, Australia.

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