Mobil Oil fined for NZ oil spill

A NZ$288,000 (US$196,000) fine has been handed down to Mobil Oil New Zealand after it entered a guilty plea in the Tauranga District Court to charges relating to the discharge of fuel oil in Tauranga Harbour, New Zealand, on April 27, 2015.

It is understood Mobil had worked co-operatively with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council during the clean-up response and subsequent investigation, as well as having previously contributed NZ$1.8 million in reimbursements and other costs.

Mobil country manager Andrew McNaught apologised for the incident and impact it had had on the community and local environment.

“Our priority has always been to minimise the impacts to the local environment and to ensure a thorough clean up and restoration of affected areas in Tauranga Harbour,” he said.

“Mobil learns from all incidents and uses the information to reinforce our commitment to continued improvement. We have already made changes to further improve our operations at Mount Maunganui.”

However, New Zealand First spokesperson for conservation Clayton Mitchell has expressed concern the “lessons learned” from the event will not be passed onto other ports and has called on the government to address oil-related equipment shortfalls.

“The spill could have been prevented with the right equipment in place which should become mandatory at all ports if we are serious about protecting waterways,” he said.

“An automatic switch-off valve activated by a drop in pressure would have stopped the leak.

“A lack of appropriate booms meant the clean-up was far too slow.

“Of a 48-point plan following the spill only a few points relate to equipment shortfalls which proved crucial to the outcomes on that day.”

According to reports, the spill occurred during a ship bunkering operation, when about 1,500 litres of oil leaked through two previously undiscovered corrosion holes in a lateral pipeline.

Iain MacIntyre