Maritime New Zealand v Daina Shipping Company

Maritime New Zealand v Daina Shipping Co 2012 NZ.pdf
Geographical Area
New Zealand
Case Name
Maritime New Zealand v Daina Shipping Company
Case Reference
Name of Court
District Court of Tauranga
Key Facts
On 5th October 2011, the MV Rena, a container vessel owned and operated by Daina Shipping Company, hit the Astrolabe Reef near the port of Tauranga and became grounded. The grounding was the result of a shortcut taken – at the captain’s instruction – in an attempt to arrive early. A 5km long oil slick originating from the vessel reached the shore on 10th October, a further 130-350 tonnes of oil was leaked following bad weather that night. On the 11th, the vessel listed over to 19 degrees causing between 30-70 containers to fall overboard, although these did not contain hazardous material, their contents begun washing up on Motiti Island.

The MV Rena’s grounding caused damage to the food resources of multiple Māori groups who live along the coast and on Motiti Island, prevented access to the beaches and impacted businesses that relied on the sea including commercial fishing and tourism.
Decision and Reasoning
Daina Shipping plead guilty to one charge under s.338(1B) of the Resource Management Act 1991. Under s.338(1B)(a), it is an offence for a ship to discharge any harmful substances, contaminants or water into the coastal marine area. As s.338(1B) is a strict liability offence, Daina was liable despite not committing the offence deliberately or through reckless / careless conduct – in that they had not placed time restrictions or operational requirements on those responsible for the grounding. Although this fact did not impact liability, the Court took it into account when determining the starting point for the penalty. However, this had to be balanced with the consideration of the nature of the environment affected, which included the entire cost of the Bay of Plenty and a vast number of individuals, businesses, iwi groups and the like. The Court decided on a starting point of NZ$450,000, 75% of the maximum penalty.

A further deduction was made as Daina showed remorse, there was no profit realised, it was not deliberate, and the defendant had no criminal record. This was balanced with the need to send an appropriate deterrent message. The deduction was set at 10%. There was a further 25% deduction for their early guilty plea.
Daina Shipping was fined NZ$300,000 for the discharge of contaminants.
This case law summary was developed as part of the Disaster Law Database (DISLAW) project, and is not an official record of the case.