ILLEGAL pollution of beaches has cost a shipping firm almost £100,000.
Pretty Time shipping was found guilty of illegally discharging two tons of palm oil into the sea, causing a chemical alert on Hayling Island and at East and West Wittering.
The spill led local authorities to close the beaches.
Although the waxy yellow lumps that washed ashore in January were found to be of low toxicity, the beaches were closed for three days for a thorough clean-up.
District Judge Gary Lucie, sitting at Southampton Magistrates’ Court, said that despite claims the lumps could not have come from the Pretty Time because they had a slightly different chemical make-up, he could draw only one conclusion.
He said: ‘She was in the right place at the right time carrying precisely the combination of oils found on the beaches, there being no other obvious or plausible candidate as being the polluter.
‘This was set against the fact that the crew had been struggling to clean the ship for about 10 days prior to the incident and on the very day in question had carried out manual cleaning.
‘Shortly after the discharge the ship was rejected at Fawley (oil refinery) because of the state it was in and the crew were seen to be dealing with the problem in what can only be described as an incompetent manner.’
The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £75,000 costs.
A statement from Parakou Shipmanagement, Pretty Time’s parent company, said the incident was a one-off and they had a zero-tolerance policy towards pollution.
Captain Andrew Phillips from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which brought the case, said: ‘We are very pleased. It sends out a clear message to the shipping industry to make sure their processes are followed correctly to ensure this sort of thing does not happen.’