A TANKER was in the ‘right place at the right time’ to have been the cause of a chemical alert which shut several beaches, a court has heard.
Singapore-based Pretty Time Shipping is accused of illegally discharging palm oil into the sea.
Hayling Island, East Wittering and West Wittering beaches had to be closed when yellow waxy lumps washed up on January 11.
Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday tests showed it was solidified palm oil.
Prosecutor Oliver Willmott explained how the Maritime and Coastguard Agency used tidal mapping to trace the likely time and place the palm oil was released into the sea.
The detailed mapping led them to believe it came from Nab anchorage, just south east of the Isle of Wight, between 5am and 11am on January 10.
Pretty Time Shipping was in the area at that time, preparing to go to Fawley Oil Refinery.
It was also the only vessel in the area carrying that type of cargo.
The court heard how palm oil solidifies when it gets cold and the crew had trouble cleaning the ship after off loading its cargo in Hamburg on December 31.
The tanker’s records showed several further cleaning attempts were made.
Twice the tanker tried to enter the Fawley Oil Refinery to pick up another load but was turned away because, Mr Willmott said: ‘The decks were treacherous. There was caking of palm oil.’
An inspection by the MCA on January 19 found lumps of a similar colour which were tested and found to conform with the make-up of the lumps found on the beaches.
Mr Willmott said: ‘It is the right place, the right time with the right substance on board.
‘The prosecution and defence have both looked for another vessel which could have caused this pollution. There is none.’
Pretty Time shipping denies a charge of making a discharge into the sea contrary to the Merchant Shipping Regulations.