Shippers in court
May trial date set for companies in pollution case

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 24/00) - Two shipping companies will face charges of discharging diesel fuel into the Beaufort Delta next month, stemming from a salvage attempt in 1997.

Northern Transportation Ltd. and Fednav Ltd., pleaded not guilty to polluting Canadian waters under Section 664(1) the Canada Shipping Action, and will be back in Yellowknife court on May 16.

The charges were read April 18 in a Yellowknife court and will be spoken to again after witnesses are gathered from across Canada. A five-to-10-day trial is expected to go ahead in May.

Northern Transportation is a Northern-owned marine shipping company based in Hay River and Fednav is a multinational marine bulk transporter, the largest ocean-going shipping and chartering group in Canada. The two companies jointly owned a dry dock in Tuktoyaktuk through a Fednav subsidiary.

"We purchased (the dock) from the U.S government through the (Canadian) Department of Supply and Services in 1997," said Ann Latimer, spokesperson for Fednav in an interview. "It hadn't been used in years."

The dock sank on May 25, 1997 and was raised in July of that year. A cracked valve was discovered after the salvage effort.

An estimated 8,000 litres of diesel leaked from the drydock and a clean-up ensued.

"We're very surprised by the charges because we did everything to cooperate," she said.

Latimer said the valve is currently being studied by the Canadian coast guard.

The maximum penalty the companies could face if convicted of these charges, which are being tried summarily, would be $250,000 fines as well as possible remedial measures imposed by a judge.