THE skipper and navigation officer of the Rena, which ran aground off New Zealand last year causing the country’s worst maritime environmental disaster, have been jailed for seven months each.
Captain Mauro Balomaga, 44, and navigation officer Leonil Relon, 37, both Filipinos, were sentenced on Friday in the Tauranga District Court, in NZ’s North Island, on a raft of charges laid after the cargo ship struck Astrolabe Reef in the early hours of October 5 last year.
It spilled about 360 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea, which washed up on local beaches and killed wildlife. Containers were washed overboard and clean-up crews are still picking up debris from the wreck which broke apart in January after being pounded by heavy seas.
Both pleaded guilty to wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering the ship’s documents after it grounded in October last year.
They also pleaded guilty to charges under the Maritime Transport Act for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.
The pair, whose name suppression was lifted on Friday, also admitted another charge laid under the Resource Management Act relating to discharging harmful substances from a ship, where the heaviest penalty is two years in prison and a $NZ300,000 ($A233,480) fine.
The ship’s owner, Greece-based Daina Shipping, has also been charged with discharging harmful substances from ships and was due in court on Friday.
The bow of the ship is still stuck on the reef while the stern section has sunk.