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

Incumbents and acclaimed mayors win elections all across B.C.’s north

Fraser Lake saw their first female mayor elected

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Ocean “Blob” returns to North Coast of B.C.

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Canada Post union announces rotating strikes in four Canadian cities

Mail will still be delivered but it will be delayed

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Leaving B.C.’s electoral reform to a referendum is ‘ridiculous’: professor

B.C. voters getting ballots in the mail on proposal to change electoral system

Canada condemns killing of journalist in Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey

The Saudi government claimed Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a ‘fistfight’

One year to election: Trudeau Liberals gear up for tussles on climate, premiers

Analysts say that the Liberals have reason to be ‘fairly confident’

GUEST COLUMN: B.C.’s proportional representation vote is dishonest, misleading

Veteran of 2005 Citizens’ Assembly urges rejection of new voting systems

Most Read