Start of the action : 15/04/2013
DEGASSING OF A SHIP FLYING THE GIBRALTAR FLAG (ORALUNA) 10 NAUTICS AWAY FROM DUNKERQUE
SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION
On 15 April 2013, the chemical tanker ORALUNA, flying the Gibraltar flag, was caught in the act of unlawfully discharging a harmful substance classified in category Y of Annex II to the MARPOL 73/78 Convention into French territorial waters, approximately 10 nautical miles off Dunkerque (59). It was a discharge of washing water, composed of a mixture of seawater and rapeseed oil, the last cargo carried by the chemical tanker. The findings were made by Belgian MUMM officials (equivalent to French customs), in accordance with the 1983 Bonn Agreement, which aims to strengthen inter-state cooperation in combating pollution of the North Sea by oil and other dangerous substances.
As the ship docked in Rotterdam, the investigations and hearings were carried out by the Dutch police, at the request of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office. This case is, therefore, a good example of international criminal cooperation.
The discharge at sea of substances classified in category Y of the MARPOL Convention, such as vegetable oils, may be authorised under certain conditions. However, they are strictly prohibited if they are made within 12 nautical miles of the coast because they can cause damage to coastal fauna and flora. The debate in this case concerned not only the distance at which the master rejected the aircraft when it was overflown, whether it was legal, but also the nationality of the officers who found the offence (Belgian, Dutch, French)
Surfrider Foundation Europe has filed a civil suit to ensure that this degassing will not go unpunished. These actions are clearly in line with the status of the association, which aims to protect and enhance the oceans, waves and coastline.
The hearing took place at the Tribunal de Grande Instance du Havre on 1 September 2014. On 22 October 2014, the court imposed a fine of €25,000 for the captain, of which 20,000 € was payable by the company and a fine of €50,000 for the company, as well as publication within three months in three newspapers (publication of the judgment in specialised and general public newspapers with an educational value).