April 24, 2003


Environment minister looking for answers on federal decision to withdraw charges

Environment Minister Bob Mercer said today he is aggressively seeking answers as to why the federal justice department withdrew charges against the MV Tecam Sea. The Tecam Sea, a Bahamian-registered ship, was charged in September 2002 with dumping oil-contaminated bilge water off the south coast of Newfoundland.

"I am shocked and dismayed that the federal justice department went before the court last Thursday and dropped the charges against the Tecam Sea," said Minister Mercer. "I want to know why."

Minister Mercer said it is his understanding that once the new Radarsat technology spotted the oil slick of approximately 90 miles long, the Canadian Coast Guard responded with an airplane and surveillance indicated that the only ship in the vicinity of the spill was the Tecam Sea. This ship was then ordered into port and subsequently charges were laid.

"I am extremely concerned about the consequences of this decision," said Minister Mercer. "This decision sends a strong message to shippers who are sailing through the waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ship owners are basically being told that these waters are open to bilge water dumping. This is certainly not an appropriate message for the federal government to send. The federal government has to enforce its laws and international laws against pollution of the sea."

Minister Mercer has written his federal counterpart, Environment Minister David Anderson, seeking answers to the federal justice department decision. Minister Mercer has also asked Minister Anderson for details on the federal government�s preparedness for oil spills and bilge dumping.

"Our efforts to lessen the threat to the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador will continue in earnest," said Minister Mercer. "I have also committed to appearing before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on May 7 in St. John�s at which time I will reiterate my concerns on the potential threat of oil spills and bilge dumping and the need for more prevention and preparedness."

Media contact: Carmel Turpin, Communications (709) 729-2575.

2003 04 24                                        3:15 p.m.

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