The Madras High Court on Friday directed the State government to urgently look into the issue of oil spill that took place after two ships collided off Chennai coast and take necessary steps.
The mishap had taken place on January 28 when ‘M T BW Maple’, with a flag of ‘Isle of Man’, was leaving after emptying liquefied petroleum gas and M T Dawn, Kanchipuram, loaded with petroleum oil lubricant (POL), was on its way to berth at Kamarajar Port, formerly Ennore Port.
The court’s direction came on a PIL seeking a direction to authorities to take action against the ships which had collided, resulting in crude oil leakage from ‘Dawn Kanchipuram.’
The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M. Sundar, before which the PIL came up, said, “On hearing the counsel for parties, it transpires that the apprehension of the petitioner is that on a principle of ‘Polluter pay’ if the ship crosses the territorial waters, the government may not be able to recover anything.”
“This of course, in no manner absolves the government of the responsibility to take necessary steps to remove the pollutant, for which the National Green Tribunal, Chennai Bench, is already stated to have been approached.”
“We are of the view that no direction can be issued in the matter, except to observe that the state government may look into the issue urgently to take such steps as deemed proper in the given situation, especially keeping in mind that as per the petitioner there has been some recent developments in terms of registration of FIR and some action post filing of the petition,” the bench said.
According to petitioner ME Raja, President, National Union of Fishermen, Royapuram, Chennai, the two ships collided off Ennore Port, Chennai, within the territorial waters of India and this resulted in leakage of crude oil from ‘Dawn Kanchipuram’ which was reported to be fully loaded tanker vessel carrying tonnes of oil.
He further submitted that crude oil started spreading on the sea water and within a day reached the shores of Ennore Beach resulting in death of many turtles and fish.
The oil spill completely stopped fishermen in the region from venturing into the sea as almost all the fish in the area covered with the oil spill have either died or moved to the deep sea, the petitioner submitted.
Apprehending that if the vessel moves out of territorial waters, the petitioner said it would be very difficult to prosecute or to recover the costs and sought a direction to authorities to take steps for initiating prosecution against the erring parties.