R. v. The Elm

In Pollution (Ship Source) on (Updated )

In this matter the "Elm", a lumber carrier, and her Master, Chief Engineer and Second Engineer were charged with various pollution offences. The charges arose when a Fisheries Surveillance aircraft observed an oil slick off the south coast of New Foundland on November 23, 1996. The slick was approximately 20 metres in width and 59 nautical miles long. The Fisheries aircraft followed the slick to the stern of the "Elm". The observers on the aircraft concluded that the oil was being discharged from the "Elm" even though they did not actually observe the discharge of pollutants from the ship. The ship vehemently denied the charges. The theory of the defence was that the slick had come from another vessel. Expert evidence was led indicating the course of the slick was slightly different from the course of the ship. Evidence was also led that the ship was well run and well equipped. The trial judge acknowledged that the facts raised a suspicion but acquitted the accused. In doing so the trial judge noted the absence of oil sample analysis that would have conclusively proven the oil slick had emanated from the "Elm".