Vancouver oil spill trial should proceed without alleged boat operator: Crown

VANCOUVER — The prosecution of a Greek shipping firm accused of operating a vessel that leaked thousands of litres of bunker fuel into Vancouver’s English Bay should be allowed to take place whether or not the company participates, the Crown said Wednesday.

Crown attorney Jessica Lawn dismissed an argument by Alassia NewShips Management Inc. that it had not been properly served a summons in the case.

“It’s very clear that notice of the proceedings has been brought to Alassia,” she told a provincial court judge.

The Crown has argued that Alassia operated the MV Marathassa when the vessel leaked 2,700 litres of fuel into English Bay in April 2015.

Alassia and the Marathassa have each been charged with 10 pollution related offences following a Transport Canada investigation. Alassia has denied it owned the Marathassa.

The Crown notified Alassia of the proceedings three different ways, including serving a summons to the captain of another vessel allegedly operated by the shipping management company while it was docked in a port on Vancouver Island, Lawn said. A peace officer from Environment Canada boarded the MV Afroessa off Nanaimo last March and served notice to Antonios Valakitsis, the ship’s master and captain.

Alassia has argued in the B.C. Supreme Court that Valakitsis worked on contract and was not able to accept a summons on behalf of the organization.

Evidence was presented in court showing both the Marathassa and the Afroessa as vessels listed in the “Our Fleet” section of Alassia’s website.

The company has explained its reasons for not appearing in provincial court in a separate decision from the B.C. Supreme Court, saying to do so would indicate it recognizes the court’s authority to hear the case.

That ruling was released in November and dismissed the company’s application to quash a decision by a justice of the peace to certify that the summons had been served. Alassia has filed an appeal, arguing the certification was beyond the justice of the peace’s jurisdiction.

Lawn said outside court a successful appeal would likely only delay proceedings against Alassia because charges have already been laid.

The provincial court trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 26.

In an attempt to serve the summons to Alassia, it was originally served also to lawyer Peter Swanson, who represents the Marathassa and Alassia, as well as Charles Taylor Adjusting Services, an insurance agency specializing in major incidents and claims. The B.C. Supreme Court decision says the Crown conceded that neither of those attempts to serve Alassia were effective.

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