Norwegian tanker adrift in Victoria court
A Norwegian tanker company that has landed in a Victoria court for alleged illegal dumping was nabbed by a Transport Canada surveillance flight.
The M/T Champion, a ship belonging to Champion Tankers A/S out of Bergen, Norway, and an individual named Robert Ruzic face four environmental charges related to illegal dumping at sea.
The case remains adrift, as nobody from the company appeared for a scheduled plea hearing in Victoria provincial court last Thursday. The hearing is held over until Oct. 25.
Ruzic, the ship, Champion Tankers and its parent company, Champion Shipping A/S, face two charges of improper disposal of a substance at sea, and two charges of improper deposit of substances harmful to migratory birds.
Environment Canada, the agency that investigated the case, said in an email to the News that a Transport Canada aircraft on a routine surveillance flight reported that the M/T Champion discharged fish oil into the ocean, about 135 miles west of Vancouver Island on July 30, 2010.
Investigators learned the ship didn’t have a permit to discharge waste in Canadian waters. Environment Canada doesn’t give permits to dump fish oil or waste from fish processing, “as practical opportunities are available to recycle, reuse or treat the waste,” a spokesperson said in the email.
The charges relate to an unspecified volume of fish oil and another “oily substance.” Environment Canada won’t say how much was allegedly dumped, but noted that the federal government has “zero tolerance” for polluting the marine environment.
Transport Canada operates a Dash-8 pollution surveillance aircraft based out of Vancouver for the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP), which is the government's primary method to monitor illegal offshore dumping.
Transport Canada said the Vancouver-based plane spends about 600 hours per year on patrol, with the majority over the shipping lanes of southern coastal waters.
“With the recent investments in NASP since 2006, the number of mystery spills observed offshore in the commercial shipping lanes and the amount of oiled birds washing ashore has significantly declined,” Transport Canada told the News in an email.
Champion Tankers website said the company has 11 tanker vessels and transports vegetable oils, palm oils, molasses and clean petroleum products.