By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO) has obtained US judicial permission to serve subpoenas on a marine accident investigator and his firm, as it pursues a $23 million claim in the Supreme Court.
Legal documents obtained by Tribune Business reveal that the Grand Bahama-based petroleum storage and blending facility was given permission by the south Florida district court on March 15, 2017, to serve subpoenas on Charles Gillespie and Pembroke Pines-based 3D Marine.
BORCO’s search for evidence is part of its continued pursuit of damages against the owners of Cape Bari, the oil tanker that smashed into its Number 10 jetty on May 25, 2012, causing more than $23.5 million in damages.
Oscar Johnson, a Higgs & Johnson attorney and partner, who is acting for BORCO in its Supreme Court battle over the accident, alleged in a March 6, 2017, affidavit that Mr Gillespie had been asked to examine the Cape Bari for damages by its owners on one day after the accident.
This examination, which Mr Johnson alleged also took place on May 30, 2012, “included a visual inspection of the hull plating on the outside of the vessel, as well as an inspection of the internal structure and a review of the vessel’s log books and tank soundings”.
The Bahamian attorney alleged that Mr Gillespie inspected other areas of the Cape Bari, and its equipment, in a bid to determine the cause of the collision.
“Mr Gillespie issued a one-page document stating his opinion that the vessel ‘was not damaged beyond hull plating coating and that the vessel is structurally sound’,” Mr Johnson alleged.
“BORCO considers that, given the extent of Mr Gillespie’s inspection, he likely created more documents than the one-page document that was produced in the Bahamian proceeding, and also likely has personal knowledge of the facts surrounding the [accident].”
Hence BORCO’s request for judicial assistance, granted last week, to serve subpoenas for 3D Marine to hand over documents relating to the Cape Bari crash, and for Mr Gillespie to be deposed and interviewed as part of its evidence-gathering.
“BORCO’s primary case... is that the vessel allided with BORCO’s dock structure, and caused over $23 million in damage, and for which the defendants are contractually obligated to indemnify BORCO,” Mr Johnson alleged.
“The defendants [Cape Bari’s owner and its shipping agent, Gemini] have asserted that the Pilot or masters of the assisting tugs were incompetent and/or negligent, that all damage suffered by BORCO was as a result of that incompetence and/or negligence, and that the defendants have no liability to BORCO.”
Mr Johnson’s declaration reveals that the Pilot in question is Captain Eglon Hanna, who was assisted by a trainee pilot, Captain Jonathan Knowles.
It also discloses that the Cape Bari’s owners and Gemini have counterclaimed in the Supreme Court against BORCO, while also launching a $1.233 million claim against its BORCO Towing Company affiliate for “alleged damage to the vessel and loss of hire”.
Given the claims and counter-claims, Mr Johnson said BORCO believed Mr Gillespie and 3D Marine “will most likely have information critical to support BORCO’s allegation” in the Supreme Court.
“This information will enable BORCO to prove its allegations against the defendants, and defend against defendants’ counterclaims in the Bahamian proceedings,” the Higgs & Johnson partner alleged confidently.