The Colombo high court on Wednesday ordered the Greek captain of an oil tanker, which carried crude oil from Kuwait to India and caught fire off the country's eastern Ampara coast, to pay a fine of USD 64,972 (LKR 12 million) after he pleaded guilty to the marine environment pollution charge.

The Panamanian-registered New Diamond was carrying 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from Kuwait to India when a boiler explosion in its engine room caused fire on September 3.

The Sri Lanka Navy with the help from the Indian Navy and Coast Guard doused the fire after three days.

Last week, Sri Lanka indicted the Greek captain for causing the oil spill under the country's Marine Pollution Prevention Act.

Captain Stereo Illias pleaded guilty to the marine environment pollution charge at the Colombo High Court. Accordingly, a fine of Sri Lankan LKR 12 million (USD 64,972) was levied, court officials said.

Stereo Ilias who appeared in court via a motion had the two indictments read out to him at the High Court and pleaded guilty to both indictments from the dock.

Accordingly, the Colombo High Court found the New Diamond skipper guilty of both indictments filed by the Attorney General and imposed the fine.

The Court ordered for the New Diamond skipper to be released after making the payment of the fine.

Announcing the verdict, the Colombo High Court Judge noted the Court focused on the accused voluntarily appearing in Court and pleading guilty to the charges at the very first occasion without wasting the time of the Court.

Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris appearing for the Attorney General said the fire aboard the MT New Diamond was caused due to the negligence of its skipper and over-heating of equipment due to the excessive speed of the crude oil tanker.

He said the accused had neglected his duties in failing to contain the fire aboard the MT New Diamond.

The Deputy Solicitor General further said the actions of the New Diamond skipper resulted in around 500 MT of fuel leaking into the seas of the Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone.

It would take another 10 to 15 years to restore the sea area from the damages caused, he said citing expert reports.

The Deputy Solicitor General said revenue of LKR 50 million was lost as Sri Lankan fishermen were unable to enter the respective sea area for three consecutive days due to the fire aboard the MT New Diamond and requested the Court to consider the fact and issue an order for compensation.

However, the Colombo High Court Judge said the matter taken up in court was to impose a sentence for the indictments filed against the suspect and if an order is made for compensation as requested by the prosecution, it would result in an issue for both parties in legal proceedings filed against the destruction caused to the marine environment. Therefore, the Colombo High Court did not issue an order with regard to the compensation claim.


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