ONE of the world's largest shipping companies has been fined for dumping waste off Cornwall's coast in a landmark prosecution after satellite images were used as evidence.
At Truro Magistrates' Court, Maersk Tankers Singapore Private Ltd was ordered to pay fines and costs of £22,500 for releasing a mixture of palm oil and heated sea water between the Isles of Scilly and Land's End.
The Maersk Kiera left a slick more than 20 miles long and at certain points broke the law.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was the first time satellite imagery has been used as the main point of evidence.
MCA enforcement officer, Captain Andrew Phillips, said it was an "important new weapon in the armoury".
He added: "When we get evidence we will prosecute.
"This is the first time we have used the technology as the primary source – it shows our willingness to use anything we have to bring matters forward.
"At one point it was releasing the discharge nine miles from the Isles of Scilly and around ten from Land's End."
Such substances cannot be dumped within 12 miles of the coast, and Captain Phillips said the "rules are there for a reason".
In the past the MCA has had to rely on witness accounts, but Mr Phillips said the imagery, combined with an automatic identification system, meant spotting and combating illegal activity was much easier.
On Friday magistrates heard how the images were passed to the MCA by the European Maritime Safety Agency.
But from first contact from Falmouth coastguard to the vessel in February 2012, when its crew denied trailing a slick, it took 14 months for the company to admit breaching UK pollution legislation as it was due to go to trial.
It was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £7,404.88 prosecution costs and a £120 victim surcharge.