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|Captain, first mate sentenced for roles in Bear Island shipwreck
Vessel remains grounded in bird sanctuary with fuel inside; salvager to examine scene as officials demand removal
The captain of a Russian ship that ran aground in a Svalbard bird sanctuary was sentenced last week to 18 days in prison and his first mate 40 days for drinking alcohol and other negligence on duty.
The Petrozavodsk remains on the south coast of Bear Island after the May 11 collision that spilled a large amount of diesel fuel into the protected area. Both officers admitted guilt and were sentenced in a Tromsø court.
"It has been 18 days since the stranding and the case against both has come to a verdict that we are satisfied with," Lars Fause, Svalbard's deputy governor, told the the Norwegian News Agency.
The captain, 45, who admitted to drinking alcohol, was released Friday after serving 15 days of his sentence and has returned to his home of Murmansk, according to the Svalbard governor's office. The first mate, 51, also of Murmansk, remains in custody after being judged responsible for the incident because he fell asleep on duty. He also was convicted of breaching Svalbard environmental law for guiding the vessel into the preserve.
The ship was carrying 30 cubic meters of fuel in four containers, at least two of which may have ruptured. Diesel spilled over an area up to three kilometers wide, but appears to have evaporated without significant damage to a seabird nesting population that reaches 500,000 annually. But the ship still contains about 700 liters of oil, which officials said could pose a serious risk to one of Europe's largest and most pristine reserves.
Norwegian Coastal Administration officials are demanding the ship's owner remove the wreckage, according to Svalbardposten. A ferry hired by a British salvage company left the mainland late last week to assess a scene that government officials say presents considerable geological and climate challenges.
"They must find a safe way to go on board the vessel and determine whether it is empty of oil, or if you can go in and clear it," Stig Nordås, a coastal administration official, told Svalbardposten. "But we can not risk life to get it done."
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