The Department of Environmental Affairs notched up its first ever conviction for maritime pollution as part of a recent global Interpol operation targeting those fouling the oceans.
The captain of the Ukrainian registered fishing vessel More Sodruzhestva was found guilty of discharging sewage into South African coastal waters. He was sentenced to a fine of R300 000 or two years in prison.
“The conviction is the first of its kind for South Africa. In addition, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) raised various Admissions of Contravention (AoC) against the master and the owners of the vessel which resulted in a total penalty of R1.7 million in respect of, among others, failure to comply with domestic legislation which gives effect to MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) to which South Africa is a signatory,” Environmental Affairs spokesman Zolile Nqayi said in a statement.
The case was part of South Africa’s participation in Interpol’s “30 Days at Sea” global operation. The month-long operation saw 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies across 58 countries detect over 500 offences. These included illegal discharges of oil and garbage from vessels, shipbreaking, breaches of ship emissions regulations and pollution on rivers and land-based runoff to the sea.
In South Africa the operation was executed as part of Operation Phakisa’s integrated enforcement programme. This sees environmental and fisheries authorities, maritime and border agencies, the SA Police Service, customs, intelligence structures and port authorities collaborating to catch polluters.
“Many activities undertaken during the 30 Days operation were intelligence driven, ensuring maximum impact,” Nqayi said.
Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said of the operation: “Criminals believe marine pollution is a low-risk crime with no real victims. This is a mistake and one which Interpol and our partners address as demonstrated by the 30 Days at Sea operation”.
“Marine pollution creates health hazards worldwide which undermine sustainable development and require a multi-agency, multi-sector co-operative response in global security architecture,” he added.
Cases of serious contamination included dumping animal farm waste in Philippine coastal waters where local communities collect shellfish and children play. In Germany a vessel discharged 600 litres of palm oil into the sea. Ghana uncovered gallons of waste oil in large bottles thought to be illegally dumped at sea.
Authorities prevented an environmental disaster in Albania by securing waters around a sinking vessel containing some 500 litres of oil. Similarly, the pollution threat from a two ship collision in French waters was contained due to preventive action during the operation.
Apart from tried and test surveillance and patrol methods, innovative technologies were also put to use in the operation.
This saw satellite images used in Argentina and Sweden, aerial surveillance in Canada and Italy and drones in Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan.