Shipping firm charged over beach alert

ALERT Hayling Island beach was closed off following discovery of suspicious foam in January

ALERT Hayling Island beach was closed off following discovery of suspicious foam in January

Michelle Bates, WO2 Lloyd Gillingham, Noah, six, and Gunner Ryan Hancock
Pictures: Habibur Rahman

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A SHIPPING company has appeared in court accused of causing a chemical alert along a stretch of the south coast.

In January, several miles of Hayling Island and East and West Wittering beaches were closed after yellow foam washed up on the shore.

The foam was later identified as palm oil.

An investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was launched and two charges were brought against Pretty Time Shipping, a Singapore-based company.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that the firm has been charged with a failure to deal with tank washings while in UK waters – which relates to the palm oil discharge.

It is not illegal to dump palm oil at sea but there are strict conditions vessels must adhere to.

It also faces a second charge of illegally discharging from a vessel while it was in German waters.

Captain D K Khan, the operations manager of Pretty Time Shipping, flew in from Singapore for the hearing.

A plea of not guilty was entered for both charges.

The court heard the maximum fine for each count is £25,000.

The yellow foam was spotted by dog walkers at 10am on January 10.

Havant Borough Council and Chichester District Council, working with the Environment Agency, quickly closed off the beaches to the public amid fears the sticky yellow foam could be toxic.

It was taken away for tests which showed that it was in fact palm oil.

Although palm oil is used as food additive and in soaps, it can be harmful to the environment.

It took 12 council workers a day to clean the beach.

The beaches were reopened the following day after the clean-up operation.

The next hearing will be held on May 16 at Southampton Magistrates’ Court.

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