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DEGASSING OF A MALTESE SHIP (TREFIN ADAM) BETWEEN FRESHWATER AND SARDINIA, CREATING MARITIME POLLUTION BY HARMFUL LIQUID SUBSTANCES
SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION
On 27 January 2012 at 17:00, a French Navy aircraft surprised the TREFIN ADAM, a Maltese flagged vessel, in the act of unlawfully discharging harmful liquid substances (biodiesel, Fatty Acid Methyl Esther) classified in category Y of Annex II of the MARPOL Convention, in the Bouches de Bonifacio, a natural reserve and area classified as a "Particularly Vulnerable Maritime Area" by the International Maritime Organisation. The slick extended 12 kilometres long and 200 metres wide between France and Sardinia. The Public Prosecutor of Marseille had the tanker immobilized and set the bond at €350,000.
Surfrider Foundation Europe has filed a civil suit to ensure that this degassing will not go unpunished. These actions are clearly in line with the status of the association, which aims to protect and enhance the oceans, waves and coastline.
The trial at first instance originally scheduled for 12 December 2012 was postponed to 15 March 2013. On 22 May 2013, the judges sentenced the master of the vessel TREFIN ADAM to 75,000 euros and the owner company TREFIN ADAM MARITIME LTD to a fine of 300,000 euros. They were found guilty of unlawfully discharging biodiesel, methyl ester, a vegetable oil classified in the category in Annex II of the MARPOL Convention.
The defendants have appealed against the decision. The hearing was held on May 19, 2014, before the Court of Appeal of Aix en Provence. The judgment was delivered on 30 June 2014 leading to the confirmation of the first instance judgment. The defendants were ordered to pay a fine of 250,000 euros for the shipowner and 50,000 euros for the captain.
The defendants have appealed to the Supreme Court. They complain that the contested judgment lacks a legal basis by failing to prove that the substance released was indeed vegetable oils classified in category Y of the MARPOL Convention and they maintain that only a sample could characterise the substance.
The Court of Cassation (which is the judge of the proper application of the law) declared in its judgment of 10 November 2015 that the decision of the Court of Appeal was in order in form and dismissed the appeal.
The Trefin Adam case is therefore definitively won