“Environmental compensation” of Rs 100 crore imposed upon shipping company for causing marine pollution

National Green Tribunal : While observing that, “no party from any country in the world has the right/privilege to sail an unseaworthy ship to the Contiguous and Exclusive Economic Zone of India and in any event to dump the same in such waters, causing marine pollution, damage or degradation thereof”, CIC imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 100 crore upon a Panama-based shipping company and its two Qatar-based sister concerns for causing an oil spill when a cargo vessel sank off the Mumbai coast in Year 2011. The three companies, Republic of Panama’s Delta Shipping Marine Services SA, Qatar-based Delta Navigation WLL and Delta Group International, were fined for pollution caused to the marine environment due to the oil spill. Gujarat-based Adani Enterprises Ltd. was also asked to pay Rs five crore as environmental compensation for dumping 60054 MT Coal in the seabed and causing pollution of marine environment. Earlier, the ship, which was sailing from Indonesia to Dahej in Gujarat, sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011. The vessel was owned by Delta Shipping Marine Services SA while Delta Navigation WLL and Delta Group International were responsible for its voyage. The ship was also carrying more than 60,000 metric tonnes of coal for Adani Enterprises Ltd. thermal power plant in Gujarat besides containing 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel. In an application filed by an environment activist before NGT, it was alleged that as a result of the oil spill, there has been damage to mangroves and marine ecology of the Bombay coast. While hearing the application, NGT pondered upon the question of public importance and significance of environmental jurisprudence, in relation to pollution caused by sinking of ship and oil spill in the Territorial Water, Contiguous Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone of the country (India) and consequences and liabilities arising there from. After perusing the relevant material on record, NGT noted that, “The reports on record clearly show that the documents in favour of the ship were issued in a biased manner and the ship was not seaworthy, right from the inception of its voyage.” The Tribunal also noted that there was serious marine pollution caused by the oil spill and continuous pollution will result from the ship and its cargo. While holding the companies guilty, NGT held that it was a clear case of negligence and sinking of a ship cannot be caused by “accident simpliciter”. NGT added that in this case element of mens rea can be traced from the unfolding of the events that finally led to the sinking of the ship and imposed fine upon the companies. [Samir Mehta v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine NGT 927, decided on August 23, 2016]

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