May 25 - The captain and navigation officer of a ship that ran aground on a reef off New Zealand are starting jail terms. Paul Chapman reports.
The captain whose wrecked ship caused New Zealand's worst environmental disaster in decades arrives at court to learn his fate. Mauro Balomaga and navigation officer Leonil Relon admitted several offences over the grounding of the Rena on a reef last October. They were each jailed for seven months after the court heard they took shortcuts to make Tauranga port on time. Salvage teams are still removing containers from the wreck. About 300 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into the ocean, killing thousands of sea birds and polluting beaches up to 100 kilometres away. The Rena's owner, Daina Shipping, is charged with discharging harmful substances. The offence carries a fine of up to 451, 000 U.S. dollars plus 10, 000 dollars for each day the offending goes on. Paul Chapman, Reuters