Johor oil spill: Fish farms planning to sue shipping companies responsible for disaster

Fish farms are already talking to their lawyers and considering to ask for compensation.

Picture for representation
Picture for representation Reuters

Fish farms, affected by Johor oil spill, are planning to seek compensation and this will not be a good news for the shipping companies who already lost about 300 tonnes of oil.

According to The Channel News Asia, one of the fish farms in Pulau Ubin, called Gills N' Claws, is already in talks with its lawyers and considering to sue the shipping companies who are responsible for the disaster.

"Our lawyers told us we can sue the ship owners for compensation...But first we will ask them amicably how they plan to compensate us, and then see what they say," said Steven Suresh, the Gills N' Claws' CEO, as reported.

"If they don't want to compensate us, then we will have to take legal action," he added.

Gills N' Claws is said to have lost its entire Chinese New Year harvest and endure a damage of S$700,000. "Just redoing the infrastructure alone is going to cost us a bomb... It's easier for me to tear the whole thing down and build a new system than to clean up the oil," said Suresh, according to the report.

Also read: Johor oil spill: Singapore fish farms lose 200 kg harvest, breeding halted

Meanwhile, lawyers told the news agency the ship owners are compelled under Singapore law to provide compensation to affected fish farms. According to S Suressh, partner at Harry Elias Partnership and head of the Aviation and Shipping Practice Group, the shipping companies can be fined up to a maximum of S$1 million under the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act and the government can step into the matter to see that justice is served.

Moreover, K Murali Pany, managing partner of Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP said, according to the news website: "If the collision was caused by the fault or negligence of any of the ships involved, the fish farms would likely have a claim against the party at fault...If the party does not offer payment, the fish farms will have to bring a claim in court, and a ship arrest to obtain security for their claims may also be possible."

Currently, the fish farms are still assessing their damage as it is not easy to estimate the loss at this moment. President of the Fish Farmers' Association Timothy Ng said that the impact of the oil spill is slowly surfacing and the cultivators are weighing their options. "But it is likely that we will need to make some claims," he said, as reported.

"There are a few farmers directly impacted, but for others … I heard from a farmer closer to the Changi side that they could see (the) oil coming" added the president.

Also read: BREAKING: Oil spill in East Johor Straits after container vessels collide

On 6 January, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has issued orders to immediately stop fish sales and wait until the evaluation of food safety is completed.

On 3 January, two container vessels collided following which 300 tonnes of oil spilt into the ocean. Though Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said that they have immediately issued oil-absorbent pads and canvases to 11 farmers, nature enthusiasts are worried about the potential damage to flora and fauna of that area.