A Panama-based shipping company and its two Qatar-based sister concerns were on Tuesday directed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to pay up Rs 100 crore as damages for causing an oil spill when a cargo vessel sank off Mumbai coast in 2011, damaging marine ecology.
While asking the three companies to pay Rs 100 crore as environmental compensation (EC) to the Ministry of Shipping, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar also ordered Gujarat-based Adani Enterprises Ltd to pay Rs 5 crore as EC for dumping in the seabed 60054 MT coal, being carried by the ship M V RAK, and polluting the marine environment.
The tribunal asked the Republic of Panama's Delta Shipping Marine Services SA, Qatar-based Delta Navigation WLL and Delta Group International to pay Rs 100 crore to the Ministry, observing that reports showed that the documents in favour of the ship were issued in a biased manner and the vessel was "not seaworthy", right from the inception of its voyage.
It also held the respondents to be defaulting entities which had adopted the "most careless and reckless attitude" in protecting the marine environment.
"We are of the considered view that determined damages of Rs 100 crore should be paid by and recovered from respondents number 5, 7 and 11, jointly and severally while respondent number 6 is held liable to pay Rs 5 crore as environmental compensation for dumping of the cargo in the sea and then failing to take any precautionary or preventive measures.
"The consignment of 60054 MT of coal has caused marine pollution and continues to be a cause and concern for environmental pollution. The respondents are defaulting entities which have not complied with law and have adopted a most careless and reckless attitude in relation to protecting the marine environment," the bench, also comprising Judicial Member U D Salvi, Expert Members A R Yousuf and Ranjan Chatterjee, said in its 223-page judgement.
The tribunal constituted a committee to look into various aspects, including to study and report to it within a month on whether removal of the ship wreck and cargo from its present location should be directed as per global conventions and in the interest of marine environment.
NGT passed the verdict on a petition filed by Samir Mehta, a Mumbai-based environmentalist, who had sought compensation for damages caused to the marine ecology due to the oil spill.
The ship, which was sailing from Indonesia to Dahej in Gujarat, sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011.