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Newfoundland shipper charged in spills

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (July 04/05) - Transport Canada is pressing four charges - with maximum fines possibly totalling more than $300,000 - against a Labrador-based shipping company in connection with three separate fuel spills in the Kivalliq region.

The charges against Woodward's Oil Ltd. come at the conclusion of the federal department's investigation into two spills in Coral Harbour and one in Rankin Inlet between August 2003 and October 2004.

According to court documents, Woodward's vessel the M.T. Mokami faces three counts of putting oil or an oily mixture into the waters of the two communities under the federal Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. Each charge carries a maximum fine of $100,000.

All three spills were reported as being less than 1,500 litres.

A charge relating to a lack of properly functioning oil discharge monitoring equipment during the October 2004 spill in Coral Harbour has also been laid under the Canada Shipping Act, though the act does not specify penalties.

No action was taken by Transport Canada with respect to a separate spill involving a Woodward's-owned vessel near the North Baffin community of Pond Inlet last summer because of what the department deemed a lack of evidence.

Contract renewed

Prior to the charges being laid, the Government of Nunavut renewed a three-year contract with Woodward's to deliver gas, diesel and aviator fuel to the Kivalliq and Baffin regions this year. Taking effect next year, the deal can be cancelled if the company experiences "performance problems," such as another spill.

"We're seeing a good, positive response from the company," said Tom Rich, deputy minister of Community and Government Services, which handles the territory's fuel supply.

A first hearing in the Woodward's case will be held in Rankin Inlet, Aug. 15.

Transport Canada will not comment on the charges while the case is before the courts.

Calls to Woodward's Happy-Valley Goose Bay office were not returned before deadline.