Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry Appeals Acquittal of Haifa Port on Pollution Charges

According to the ministry, the company's argument in the lower court that a conviction would severely damage its image, is not a reason to acquit it of the charges in question.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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The Haifa port.
The Haifa port.Credit: Albatross Aerial Photography
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The Environmental Protection Ministry last week appealed to the Haifa District Court against a lower court’s ruling that cleared the Haifa Port Company of charges of marine pollution.

According to the ministry, the company’s argument in the lower court that a conviction would severely damage its image and have economic implications, is not a reason to acquit it of the charges in question.

A few months ago, Haifa Magistrate’s Court Judge Ziad Falah found the company not guilty of charges that it did not take the necessary steps to prevent marine pollution caused during the unloading of a ship in 2010. The charges were filed by the Environmental Protection Ministry

The ministry wrote that according to the information in the indictment, the Haifa Port Company had offered a monetary incentive to port workers to unload ships quickly, even if doing so risked potential marine pollution.

The heads of the port admitted that the company had caused the pollution and enumerated actions it had taken in recent years to prevent damage to the environment. The judge accepted the company’s argument that, if convicted, its classification in an annual environmental impact index published by the ministry would be lowered, which could negatively impact investors. The index of public companies is published for the information of potential investors.

An attorney for the ministry, Uri Katz, told the court that the index in question does not apply to the Haifa Port Company and includes no information about it. He added, though, that such publication was indeed the purpose of the index.

“A statement that the court should not find a company guilty, when there is no doubt as to its guilt, because of the impact on the index, constitutes an act of hiding information from the public,” he said.

The Ashdod Port had been convicted of a similar offense and had not raised such a claim, the ministry said.

The ministry also argued that the court had been mistaken in determining that the offense caused only a moderate amount of environmental damage. The Haifa Port Company said it would study the appeal and respond.

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