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24

Tanker suspected in fatal hit-and-run could leave Canada if bond posted

The Russian operators of an oil tanker implicated in a deadly collision with a U.S. fishing boat want their ship released from Canadian waters as civil lawsuits continue to pile up in the United States and Canada.

The Russian operators of an oil tanker implicated in a deadly collision with a U.S. fishing boat want their ship released from Canadian waters as civil lawsuits continue to pile up in the United States and Canada.
"We'd like to get the vessel back into trade," Jim Lawrence, a spokesman from a U.S. public relations firm that represents Primorsk Shipping Corp. of Russia, said Wednesday. But the ship, which allegedly rammed the fishing vessel Starbound on Aug. 5 and killed three fishermen, can't be moved until it posts a bond to cover potential damages for the victims' families and the company that owned the Starbound.
Three civil lawsuits filed with the Federal Court of Canada are seeking more than $13.5 million US in compensation. In the United States, similar lawsuits are seeking more than double that amount.
Primorsk Shipping will take part in a court hearing Monday to determine how much the bond will cost, Lawrence said from his office in Stamford, Conn.
The 180-metre ship remained tied up at Long Harbour, Nfld., which is about 100 kilometres southwest of St. John's on Placentia Bay.
The RCMP completed their investigation late Monday and the ship, which has been certified as seaworthy, is in the hands of its crew.
But the ship remains under arrest because of the outstanding civil suit in Canada filed by Atlantic Mariner Inc., the owners of the Starbound, based in Rockland, Me.
The ship will not be granted permission to leave Placentia Bay if it attempts to leave, said St. John's lawyer Cecily Strickland, who represents Atlantic Mariner.
"I would have no reason to think the owners of the Virgo would instruct the crew to do this," she said, adding the coast guard would be called in if the ship made a run for it.
The Virgo was travelling between Boston and Come By Chance, Nfld., when the collision occurred in U.S. waters off the coast of Massachusetts, court documents allege.
The tanker was detained by Canadian authorities when it arrived at the refinery near Come By Chance on Aug. 7.
The U.S. Coast Guard alleges the tanker's officers weren't paying attention to radar screens and the ship was travelling too fast in rainy weather when it rammed the fishing boat. The coast guard also alleges the ship's crew failed to offer assistance after the collision.
Information seized from the ship shows it was on a collision course with the Starbound for at least 45 minutes before the collision, a U.S. Coast Guard investigator said in an affidavit.
The Virgo's captain, second officer and lookout were arrested in St. John's last Wednesday. They each face a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the United States, pending an extradition hearing in Newfoundland.
But that process could take months, if not years, to complete.
On Wednesday, a court hearing in St. John's was expected to determine when U.S. investigators would be given the evidence collected by the Mounties under an special international treaty.
Instead, the hearing focused only on "preliminary issues" leading up to another set of hearings, scheduled for Oct. 22-24 in St. John's, said defence lawyer Robert Simmonds.
Those hearings will determine which lawyers will eventually be allowed to make submissions related to the validity of three search warrants used by the RCMP.
Another court hearing will be held Sept. 13 in St. John's to discuss issues surrounding the extradition process. But again, nothing major is expected to be decided at that time.
"It will be just to report and to get some firm dates with respect to preliminary issues," said Simmonds, who represents the Virgo's captain, Vladimir Ivanov.
Neftegaz.ru