Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rena captain pleads guilty to all charges

From Stuff.co.nz: Rena captain pleads guilty to all charges
The captain of the cargo ship which grounded on a reef off Tauranga last year has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

The Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef in October last year causing an environmental disaster - spilling oil and containers into the water and killing masses of sea animals. The stricken ship broke in two early this year.

The captain pleaded guilty today in the Tauranga District Court to charges laid under the Maritime Transport Act, Crimes Act and Resource Management Act.

He retains name suppression.

Prime Minister John Key said the captain's guilty plea vindicated the charges against him.

"It's important justice bought to bear here, significant environmental damage that's occurred in New Zealand and the Government is very concerned about that," he said.

The ship's navigation officer, whose name is also suppressed, also appeared in court today and he pleaded guilty to a charge laid under the Maritime Transport Act and three Crimes Act charges.

He is yet to enter a plea on a Resource Management Act charge.

Both men face the same charges; under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 for operating a vessel in a manner likely to cause danger, under the Resource Management Act 1991 for discharging a contaminant and on three charges under the Crimes Act for altering ship documents.

The captain faces one additional charge under the Crimes Act for altering ship documents.

The charges under the Crimes Act each carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

The RMA charge is under section 338 (1B) and (15B) relates to the 'discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations'.

It carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $300,000, or two years imprisonment and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.

The Maritime Transport Act carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

Sentencing for both men is scheduled for May 25 at the Tauranga District Court.

The navigation officer is scheduled to reappear in the Tauranga District Court on May 22 where more pleas are expected.

A spokeswoman for Maritime New Zealand said the organisation would not comment on today's development.

"We can't comment while it's still before the courts," she said.

However, the public could expect to hear MNZ's views after the men have been sentenced, she said.

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