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Swire Shipping Unit Ordered to Stand Trial on Australian Oil-Spill Charge

Swire Navigation Co., a shipping unit of John Swire & Sons Ltd., and a cargo liner captain were yesterday ordered to stand trial in Australia over an oil spill last year that blackened beaches, the company said.

Bernardino Gonzales Santos, the captain, was charged with disposal of oil in coastal water and of not reporting a spill after containers aboard the Pacific Adventurer fell overboard during a March 11, 2009, storm and pierced the ship’s hull, Swire said at the time. About 200,000 liters of oil spilled.

“All defendants and Captain Santos entered non-guilty pleas and intend to vigorously defend the charges,” Camilla Myers, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Swire Navigation agreed in June 2009 to pay A$25 million ($21 million), in addition to A$2 million it spent on cleanup, into a trust to compensate those affected by the spill. The amount compares with the A$17.5 million maximum “legal obligation,” the company said at the time.

John Swire, based in London, also controls Hong Kong property company Swire Pacific Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., the city’s biggest carrier.

Swire Navigation expressed “deep regret” over the accident, the company said in a statement e-mailed yesterday, citing Chairman Richard Kendall, who made the comments before the hearing to determine if the defendants would stand trial.

“We hope we demonstrated that in our support of the clean- up operation at the time, and our subsequent compensation agreement with both State and Federal governments,” Kendall said. “We are proud of the way Captain Santos handled the incident.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Hong Kong at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

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