HC refuses to restrain BW Maple from sailing out of Chennai

The Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with a No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued by the Director General of Shipping (DGS) on September 14 permitting BW Maple, one of the two vessels involved in a collision leading to large scale oil spill at the Kamarajar Port in Ennore on January 28, to sail out of the port.

The first Division Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar also recorded the submission of the Ennore police that they do not require the continued detention of the vessel since investigation into a criminal case registered in connection with the incident was in the final stage and a chargesheet would be filed shortly.

Acceding to a request made by advocate S. Raghunathan, representing the owners of BW Maple, to fix a time frame for completing the criminal investigation, as well as the internal inquiry being conducted by the DGS, the judges ordered that both the proceedings should be completed within four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the court order.

Further, the judges appreciated M. Nandhakumar, counsel for a public interest litigation petitioner, who had challenged the NOC, for fairly conceding that he was unaware, at the time of filing of the case, that the owners of BW Maple, as well as the other vessel — MT Dawn Kanchipuram — had furnished bank guarantees for ₹203 crore each to settle claims by fishermen.

In his submissions before the court, Additional Solicitor General G. Rajagopalan said that BW Maple, a large Liquefied Petroleum Gas carrier, was not the polluting ship since the oil had spilled only from the oil tanker MT Dawn Kanchipuram.

He said the latter was liable to compensate all those who had suffered losses as per the ‘polluter pays principle’.

The ASG submitted a brief note from the DGS, which stated that the cleaning operation pursuant to the oil spill was completed by April 11 due to the sustained efforts of all the stakeholders, including ports, oil companies, the Coast Guard, various departments of the State government, as well as the owners of the two vessels.

The note also stated that the insurer of MT Dawn Kanchipuram had so far paid ₹8.84 crore to the Indian Coast Guard, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Greater Chennai Corporation, Kamarajar Port, Chennai Port, Chennai Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation, Ennore Tank Terminals and others.

After recording the statements, the Bench held that it would not interfere either with the issue of fixing liability since it was a matter for investigation or with the quantum of compensation to be paid to fishermen since the southern zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal was already seized of the issue.

Though a government counsel representing the Fisheries Department said the quantum of compensation to fishermen would work out to ₹240 crore and not ₹203 crore, the judges pointed out that the amount could be quantified only after verifying all claims and pointed out that, in any case, the vessel owners had jointly furnished a bank guarantee for ₹406 crore.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 10:27:46 PM |

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