Ship captain pleads guilty for oil spill in New Zealand

The captain and second officer of a ship that caused New Zealand's biggest sea pollution disaster pleaded guilty to criminal charges and could face lengthy jail terms, officials said.

The officers were in charge of the Liberian-flagged Rena when it ploughed into a reef last year, releasing an oil slick that killed thousands of sea birds and fouled beaches in the North Island's pristine Bay of Plenty.

The men, both Filipinos, pleaded guilty to operating a ship in a dangerous manner and attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering navigation records after the accident, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said on Wednesday.

At a hearing in the Tauranga District Court, the captain also admitted discharging harmful substances from the cargo vessel, MNZ said.

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