Bunker Spill Fine Prompts Call for Change to Marine Pollution Law

Friday July 19, 2019

The Heiltsuk Nation has called for changes to marine pollution law after US-based Kirby Offshore Marine Corp. this week was fined $2.9 million for a 2016 marine fuel spill from one of its vessels off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.

The tug boat Nathan E. Stewart and its fuel barge ran aground and spilled some 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in the waters of a First Nation's fishing territory.

But the fine has been described as Chief Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Nation, as "a drop in the bucket for a multibillion dollar company and one of the world's largest tank barge operators".

"We both know this sentence does not represent true justice. True justice would mean paying for an environmental impact assessment, admitting civil liability, and working openly and honestly to address compensation and remediation for the harm caused by the spill. You should work with us to help reform antiquated marine pollution compensation laws, rather than hiding behind them," Chief Slett wrote in an open letter to Kirby CEO David Grzebinski.

In its own statement on the sentence, Kirby said: "We sincerely regret this incident, and we have amended our operating procedures, training, auditing, promotion protocols and equipment to help reduce the potential for future accidents."

Kirby pleaded guilty to three of nine charges in the criminal case, while a civil case for damages filed by the Heiltsuk Nation is ongoing, local media outlet CBC News reports.