Nearly two years after a fuel spill polluted the waters and shorelines of Vancouver's English Bay, charges have been laid against the cargo ship MV Marathassa and the company that owns it.

The Marathassa and its owner, Alassia NewShips Management Inc., now face 10 charges linked to the April 8, 2015 spill that saw 2,700 litres of bunker fuel dumped into English Bay.

The charges were laid by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada following a nearly two-year-long investigation by Transport Canada, according to a statement released on Thursday.

The 10 charges include:

  • Six counts under the Canada Shipping Act, including contravening regulations, failing to implement an oil pollution emergency plan, and discharge of a pollutant.
  • Two counts under the Fisheries Act.
  • One count under the Canadian Environment Protection Act.
  • One count under the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

The response and recovery operation following the spill took 16 days. A Coast Guard-commissioned review into the spill found the Marathassa's owners slowed the reaction time to the emergency because they refused to admit the vessel was the source of the fuel spill.

In total, there were 25 recommendations on how future marine spills could be handled. 

Consequences for offenders

Andrew Gage with West Coast Environmental Law said he's pleased to hear of the charges.

"Obviously the spill was really disturbing for everyone in British Columbia — in Vancouver especially. It is important for there to be consequences when companies don't take care and spoil our environment," said Gage.

Gage said the incident was a high-profile spill and it makes sense that charges are being recommended, but he questioned whether that happens often enough.

"Our sense is that there certainly could be more enforcement of environmental legislation. It's great it's being done here, but what about in places where it's not right in peoples' faces?"

The federal charges were sworn on February 15, 2017. The first court appearance is scheduled for April 5 in Vancouver Provincial Court.