Tanker’s deck had so much oil it was ‘like ice’

ACTION The beach at Hayling was closed after the spill
ACTION The beach at Hayling was closed after the spill

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A POLLUTION trial has heard how the deck of a tanker was caked in so much oil it was like ‘walking on black ice’.

Pretty Time Shipping is accused of illegally discharging palm oil into the sea.

On January 11 this year, yellow waxy lumps washed up on the shores of Hayling Island, East Wittering and West Wittering, forcing local authorities to close the beaches.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard how the tanker, Pretty Time, had tried to enter Fawley oil refinery on the same day to pick up a cargo of petrol.

But David Macey, a ship inspector at the refinery, told the court he refused to allow it to take the cargo because there was a significant amount of palm oil, its previous cargo, in the drip trays. He said the crew had problems cleaning out the tanks and he saw large lumps of solidified palm oil.

The court heard from Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspector Ulricht Jurgens, who said when he inspected the ship on January 19 he found ‘significant residue of crumbly solid material spread all over the deck’.

‘It was everywhere,’ he said.

‘It was like walking on black ice on part of the deck.’

He said there were ‘nuggety bits’ about 5cm in diameter.

Chemical expert Kevin Smith told the court that although the samples found on the beach were palm oil, its chemical make-up was not an exact match to that found on the ship, although it has already been established that there were no other tankers in the area carrying palm oil at the time the beaches were polluted.

The defence also called Dr Tim Moss, a biochemist.

He said it was unlikely that the samples taken from the beaches came from Pretty Time because of the chemical make-up.

The elements of hydrocarbon were too high and the dioxide too low, he said.

Dr Moss said: ‘If this is indicative of the level of hydrocarbon on the Pretty Time I would say the beach samples could not have come from Pretty Time.’

But Oliver Willmott, prosecuting, questioned whether the ship samples were taken from different tanks, and therefore came from a different area than the ones tested.

Dr Moss said it was possible but couldn’t be certain.

Pretty Time Shipping based in Singapore denies the charge.

(Proceeding)