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

Lightning strikes West Kelowna condo

Fire crews were called to a building on Carrington Road Tuesday night

UPDATE: Smoke rising from Okanagan Mountain Park hills

Lightning may have sparked a fire in the hills across from Peachland

Lightning strikes across B.C. Interior

Residents are being asked to go inside until last rumble of thunder

Update: Lightning sparks blaze above Summerland

Firefighters are battling the small fire from the area that occurred Tuesday shortly after 7 p.m.

UPDATE: Crews battle wildfire near Big White Road

Joe Rich Fire Department responding alongside Big White Fire Department and provincial crews.

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Lightning sparks wildfires in Vernon

Tuesday night storm causes wildfire in BX and residential fire in East Hill

Crash closes Highway 5A in both directions

A collision has shut down Highway 5A about 22 kilometres south of the junction with Highway 97C

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Pike Mountain fire continues to grow – quadruples in 24 hours

Fire threatens area consumed in 2017 by a 3,500 hectare blaze

Vernon Knights hire Van Horlick

New head coach of Junior B franchise in Armstrong

St. Albert knocks down Canadians

Finals of Valley of the Champions

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Most Read