26 Oct 2012

Rena's owners fined $300,000 for harmful discharge

8:45 pm on 26 October 2012

The company that owns the wrecked container ship Rena has been fined $300,000 for discharging harmful substances into the sea.

The Rena ran aground on Astrolabe reef off the coast of Tauranga in October last year, spilling containers and oil into the sea in one of New Zealand's worst environmental disasters.

The Daina Shipping Company, which is based in Greece, admitted the Resource Management Act charge - which carries a maximum fine of $600,000 - in the Tauranga District Court on Friday afternoon.

Judge Robert Wolff said it was not a deliberate offence but the entire coast was affected by the disaster as well as individuals, businesses, iwi groups and wildlife.

"It has been a disaster that has highlighted the risks associated with shipping and commerce," he said.

The head of Maritime New Zealand, Keith Manch, says the guilty plea allowed the case to be resolved in a timely fashion.

Company apologises again

In a written statement, the company has again apologised for the actions of the crew, the accident and any damage caused. It says about $235 million has been spent so far on salvage and cleanup.

Earlier in October the Government announced it had reached a $27.6 million settlement with Daina in relation to the grounding.

The company's lawyer, Paul Mabey, says the judge took the compensation package into account when sentencing.

He says the fine can't be argued with because the judge acknowledged the owner's efforts in the beginning and the extensive co-operation with government agencies.

Last month, the ship's captain and navigational officer were deported to their home country, the Philippines, after serving half of their seven-month sentences for attempting to pervert the course of justice and operating a vessel in a way that caused unnecessary danger or risk.

Mr Manch says Maritime New Zealand continues to oversee the removal of the wreck from the reef.