French Customs helicopter swoops to catch ferry leaving an oil slick

The MCA has successfully prosecuted a cross-Channel ferry company Transmanche, for releasing oily water off Beachy Head. The company was fined £15,000 plus costs of £9,373.27 at a hearing yesterday at Southampton Magistrates Court.

On the morning of 11th August 2004, a French customs helicopter was conducting a routine patrol in the English Channel when it observed an oil slick. The aircraft found the slick to be coming from the French ro-ro ferry Dieppe approximately 8.5 nautical miles south-south-east of Beachy Head.

It is believed that the Dieppe had a long-standing problem with its oily water separator and the owners admitted to releasing three cubic metres of polluted water.

Bryan Hopkins, Surveyor-in-Charge South East Marine Offices, stated:
‘This is a timely reminder to all ship owners, ship managers and seafarers to ensure that oily water separators are operated correctly.’

He went on to remark: ‘I would like to thank French Customs and the Gendarmerie Maritime for their help and co-operation in this matter.’