Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says it has charged the owner of the Rena, six months after the cargo ship ran aground on a reef off Tauranga, spilling oil, containers and debris.
Greece-based Daina Shipping was charged under the Resource Management Act (RMA) relating to the “discharge of harmful substances from ships” in the coastal marine area, MNZ announced on Thursday.
The charge carries a maximum fine of $NZ600,000 ($A479,865) and $NZ10,000 for every day the offending continues.
The charge was laid in Tauranga District Court and is expected to have its first call on May 25.
The skipper of the Rena has already pleaded guilty to all the charges he faces following the disastrous grounding on the Astrolabe reef.
In New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster, the Rena grounded on the reef on October 5, spilling containers and about 360 tonnes of oil, which washed up on local beaches and killed wildlife.
The 44-year-old captain and 37-year-old navigation officer, both Filipinos, still have name suppression after they admitted wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering ship’s documents after it grounded.
The charges were laid under the Crimes Act and carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
They also pleaded guilty to charges under the Maritime Transport Act for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.
The captain has also admitted the same RMA charge laid against Daina Shipping on Thursday and will be sentenced in May.
The navigation officer has yet to enter a plea to his RMA charge.
The clean-up operation is still being carried out and the ship, still stranded on the reef, has split in two.
The stern section of the cargo ship is now 97 per cent under water and the salvage is on hold as large swells continue to smash the stricken ship.
Monster waves, up to 12 metres high, hammered the ship, sending the stern further under the surface on Wednesday and more containers and debris into the sea.
Thames-Coromandel District Council staff on Thursday morning were cleaning up scores of packets of dried noodles and a scattering of milk powder bags at Tairua and Sailors Grave.
However, there has still been no sign of oil on Coromandel beaches after the Rena also spilled a small amount this week.
Bay of Plenty residents were again being warned to prepare for fresh oil and debris to wash ashore.
Salvors would fly over the wreck on Thursday morning to assess what had happened, but it would be impossible to work on salvaging the remaining containers in such heavy seas.