A HONG Kong company has been fined $60,000 after its livestock carrier GL Lan Xiu leaked about 4500L of oil into the Brisbane River earlier this year.
Glocal Hong Kong pleaded guilty in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday under laws designed to protect Queensland's marine and coastal waters.
Maritime Safety Queensland said the company faced much higher penalties with new legislation brought in after the Pacific Adventurer incident which spilled 270,000 litres of oil into Moreton Bay in 2009.
The Pacific Adventurer spill, which reached beaches along the Sunshine Coast, cost more than $30 million to clean up and resulted in a $1.2 million fine.
Prosecutor Ben McMillan said maximum penalties had risen from $500,000 to $10 million after that environmental disaster and set a new benchmark.
He said January's spill in Brisbane had resulted in three pelicans needing rehabilitation from being oiled and the unknown fate of a cormorant suffering the same fate.
Mr McMillan said this clean-up had cost about $384,000 and there were still negotiations to recover costs.
He told the court about other oil spills resulting in smaller fines at Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Gladstone but pointed out the higher maximums meant the fine should be up to $70,000.
Defence barrister Craig Chowdhury said the leak had occurred through human error when someone did not tighten a valve enough.
He said the ship's crew had immediately tried to contain the oil and had since reviewed training procedures to ensure it would not happen again.
Mr Chowdhury said his client had been to Brisbane five times without incident and had an "impeccable environmental record" before this.
Magistrate Ray Rinaudo gave the company six months to pay the fine and ordered they pay $2250 court costs.
"Incidents of this type are considered to be very serious, particularly in relation to their environmental impact, and more particularly have come to prominence since the incident of the Pacific Adventurer in the Moreton Bay region," he said.
MSQ dismissed charges against the ship's captain Cecillio Balagatas and engineer Marlon Arceo.