MEDIA RELEASE: Failed court case leaves no one accountable for toxic mess in the Harbour

Keep Top End Coasts Healthy has today expressed concern over the failed prosecution of the owners and masters of a cargo ship following a major oil spill in Darwin Harbour on 19 August 2016. The NT environment Protection Agency has failed to prosecute and today, Local Court Judge John Neill dismissed the case. 

Keep Top End Coasts Healthy has today expressed concern over the failed prosecution of the owners and masters of a cargo ship following a major oil spill in Darwin Harbour on 19 August 2016. The NT Environment Protection Agency has failed to prosecute and today, Local Court Judge John Neill dismissed the case. 

Adele Pedder, from Keep Top End Coasts Healthy, said: “In 2016 our precious Harbour, our coastal backyard, suffered from a devastating oil spill that spread across 30kms of the coast. Today’s failed prosecution means no one is being held accountable for this terrible toxic mess.”

“Darwin Harbour is suffering from the impacts of industrial development, mangrove destruction and toxic pollution. This is yet another blow to the health of our Harbour and wildlife.”   

The NT Department of Environment stated* that the 30km spill impacted mangroves, intertidal mudflats and coastal zones, which provide habitat for species like turtles, spawning fish, mud crabs and the critically endangered eastern curlew.

Pedder said procedural issues meant that a conviction could not be brought against the owners of the Antung cargo ship, who had been charged with offences relating to the spill.

Changes made to the Marine Pollution Legislation Amendment Act will better enable the Territory to pursue justice for marine pollution caused by ships in future cases, Pedder added.

“Legal protection for our marine and coastal environments is essential to ensure the owners of ships and all operators on the Harbour act with respect and are held to account. This is particularly important in  Darwin where we are seeing significant increases in industrial activity and associated shipping.”

Pedder said she hoped lessons were learned by NT authorities, who have been criticised for their slow reaction to the spill**.


*Prosecution Proceedings Commenced Over Oil Spill in Darwin Harbour. 27 September 2018.  https://denr.nt.gov.au/news/prosecution-proceedings-commenced-over-oil-spill-in-darwin-harbour
**Darwin Harbour oil spill response by EPA questioned. 20 August 2016. https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-20/epa-response-to-darwin-harbour-oil-spill-questioned/7769390

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