Singapore tough in oil spill case

Sep 14, 1998 02:00 AM

July 8, 1998 Prosecutors demanded a stiff deterrent sentence for a Polish supertanker captain involved in Singapore's worst oil spill.
State prosecutor Wong Keen Onn told a court that Jan Sokolowski, captain of the Thai supertanker Orapin Global, had shown "blatant disregard" for other ships in the narrow Singapore Strait last October before a collision with the oil tanker Evoikos.
Sokolowski, 54, faces up to 6 months in jail and a Singapore S$ 1,000 ($ 600) fine for negligent navigation and a fine of up to S$ 10,000 for speeding.
Michael Chalkitis, the 58-year-old Greek captain of the Cyprus-flagged Evoikos who pleaded guilty, faces up to 2 years in jail and a Singapore $ 50,000 fine for not taking timely action to avoid a collision and a fine of up to S$ 10,000 for failing to keep a proper look-out.
The surprise guilty pleas cut short what had been expected to be a long and complicated trial for which the court had set aside 5 weeks.

The collision between the 2 ships spewed nearly 29,000 tonnes of heavy marine fuel oil into the Singapore Straits from a huge gash in the side of the Evoikos.
The Evoikos was heading to Singapore to discharge its cargo of 126,400 tonnes of marine fuel oil and the empty Orapin Global was on its way to the Gulf when they collided.
Singapore, one of the world's busiest ports, "can ill afford any maritime incident that affects the traffic in its sea-lanes, and worse still, one that requires a closure of the port," he said, although the port was not closed by the spill.
"The prosecution therefore submit that a sufficiently deterrent sentence should be imposed on the accused in this case. Looking at the conduct of Orapin Global, it shows a blatant disregard to other users of the sea lane on that day," Woon said.
He said the Orapin Global was overtaking another tanker unnecessarily and Sokolowski had taken an unreasonably long time to alter course back to its proper lane and this contributed to the collision.
"Even if the Orapin Global was justified in crossing over to the eastbound lane, there was no reason for Orapin Global to stray to the far edge" of the deep water route, he said.
Sokolowski's lawyer argued that he had no choice but to move into the opposite eastbound lane because of an oncoming tug.
Lawyer Francis Xavier said Sokolowski did not deserve a jail term because he was moving all the time back to the correct lane, although he admitted that it could have been done faster.
Lawyers involved in the case said once these trials were out of the way, a second round was expected, involving civil claims and counter-claims for compensation over clean-up costs and lost cargo estimated to be worth about $ 2 mm at current prices.
Other claims were likely to include damage to the Evoikos and damage suffered by third parties, they said.

Source: not available
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