MV Marathassa, the ship that spilled fuel into English Bay in 2015. (Alassia NewShips Management via Canadian Coast Guard)

UPDATE: Trial begins over 2015 fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay

Alassia NewShips Management, the vessel MV Marathassa face 10 environmental-related charges

A port worker says he suspected large plumes of oil that were shining on the surface of the water in Vancouver’s harbour nearly three years ago was bunker fuel, based on the smell.

A B.C. provincial court judge heard Monday that Mark James of the Port of Metro Vancouver responded to reports of a spill on April 15, 2015.

“When you smell gasoline, you know the smell of gasoline,” James testified on the opening day of a trial for a company and vessel charged after the spill. “We knew it was bunker oil, which was serious.”

The charges were laid after 2,700 litres of fuel leaked into English Bay.

READ MORE: Review flags denial, confusion in slow response to Marathassa oil spill

READ MORE: Mayors blast oil spill response, NEB pipeline review

A judge earlier allowed the trial to go ahead even without one defendant attending the hearing.

The Greek shipping firm Alassia NewShips Management Inc. and the vessel MV Marathassa face 10 environmental related charges, including alleged violations under the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environment Protection Act.

Alassia has denied ownership of the Marathassa and the company was not represented in court on Monday. Judge Kathryn Denhoff previously ruled the trial would proceed without Alassia’s participation, and she affirmed that decision as the trial began.

Outside court, Crown attorney Jessica Lawn said Alassia is the alleged operator of the vessel and evidence supporting that assertion could be valuable to the case.

“It’s the Crown’s duty to prove that Alassia, as charged on the information, committed the offences in the way that we’ve alleged,” she said.

In his testimony, James said he spotted patches of oil as long as 4.5 metres and as wide as two metres while he tried to investigate the source. He described collecting samples and investigating about a half dozen vessels that were anchored in the bay at the time.

When he boarded the Marathassa, James said the captain gave him a blank sheet of paper with the vessel’s letterhead so that he could take some of the notes he relied on in court.

The Crown had James read the footer of the sheet to the court, which included Alassia’s name, address and contact information.

Marathassa’s counsel, David Jones, was in court to cross-examine James.

Alassia explained its reasons for not appearing in provincial court in a separate decision from the B.C. Supreme Court, saying to do so would indicate it recognizes the court’s authority to hear the case.

In that case, the firm is fighting the process used to serve a summons. The court supported a justice of the peace’s certification of the summons in a ruling last fall, but Alassia has filed an appeal.

Lawn said if convicted, the firm and vessel could face significant fines, with maximum penalty for some of the violations set at $4 million.

First responders, investigators from Transport Canada and environmental experts are expected to testify in the coming weeks, Lawn said.

The trial is scheduled to continue until April 20.

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Charity Langley car show starts tradition of caring for people with cancer

Ken Johnson wanted an event that to feature his late friend’s vehicle, and it grew into a car show.

UPDATED: Langley’s downtown business entity given 10-year extension

Langley City’s businesses can strategize future after new BIA bylaw was approved, president says.

Cloverdale horse barn goes up in flames

Fire crews work for hours to extinguish blaze on 184th Street

Self-guided Langley mural walk first of many new tourism experiences

Brochures are available for visitors and residents who want to check out some Langley City wall art.

VIDEO: Geocaching attracted adventure seekers to new Langley City event

Dozens of teams came out to discover a mix of art and nature during a new treasure hunt.

VIDEO: Annual Langley City Legendary Water Fight a fun way to beat the heat

Fire department crews bring water-filled trucks and hoses to the pool to douse patrons.

Short trip to car-free Sidney Spit offers camping, beaches, hikes

Sidney Spit is part of B.C.’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a protected marine ecosystem

Riptide, CVUSC paved the way for varsity soccer players

Chloe Gummer has become a leader at VIU

B.C. woman disappointed after family asked for ID at townhouse complex pool

Surrey woman says it’s not the first time she has experienced racial profiling at the complex

Park pipeline protesters say arrest is a ‘declaration of war’

Group behind North Thompson River Provincial Park occupation protest says arrest is ‘declaration of war’

A day of deals at Amazon, and at its rivals

Online retail giant extends annual ‘Prime Day’ promotion to 36 hours

Alert B.C. campers raise alarm and avert potential propane disaster

Salmon Arm camper lodges a complaint with Technical Safety BC after motorhome tank is over-filled.

5 to start your day

Heat warning issued, man climbs a crane, a dog-sprinting event, and more

Non-union construction industry fears exclusion in B.C.

Premier John Horgan announces new Crown corporation for public works

Most Read