The U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency
(MCA) announced that at a hearing yesterday the Channel Magistrates Court the owner/skipper of the French fishing vessel, St. Jacques II, was convicted of causing pollution from the Maltese tanker, Gudermes. On the morning of March 23rd last year the St Jacques II was proceeding to fishing grounds off the Thames Estuary from Boulogne. Skipper Loïc Margollé had set a course which took his vessel the wrong way along the South West traffic lane. He then left the vessel in the charge of a young rating, who subsequently fell asleep on watch. In the early hours of the morning the "St Jacques II" collided with the Gudermes, rupturing a cargo tank and spilling oil into the sea.
The MCA’s Counter Pollution and Salvage team conducted a cleanup operation, and the tanker was directed to Southampton for repairs. About 4 cubic metres of oil was later identified and dealt with in the area of the Falls Bank.
In December 2001 Loïc Margollé was convicted in France for going the wrong way in a traffic separation scheme and causing damage to the cargo of the "Gudermes". Because of jurisdictional issues the pollution offences had to be dealt with in the UK. Loïc Margollé pleaded guilty to one charge of causing a discharge of oil into the sea. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months. When passing sentence the magistrates noted that he had co-operated fully with the MCA, had appeared in the UK voluntarily and had already been heavily fined in France.
Alan Morgan, Surveyor in Charge of the Dover Marine Office, said after the case, "This was an important case for the MCA, as it has tested a provision in the Regulations that allows the prosecution of any person who causes pollution from ships in these circumstances. The captain and crew of the tanker made strenuous efforts to minimize the pollution of the English Channel following the collision and for this reason they were not pursued through the courts."