By Vittorio Hernandez

Tauranga, New Zealand

A member of the New Zealand parliament called for the Filipino captain of the container ship that has been leaking oil since striking a reef to be hanged for the environmental disaster he caused in the Bay of Plenty.

The captain of the Rena, who has not been named in the media because of possible threats to his life, showed up on Wednesday at the Tauranga District Court where he was charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

If convicted, the captain faces a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine or 12 months jail. He is scheduled to reappear in court on Nov. 2.

Parliamentarian Hone Harawira, who leads the Mana Party, finds the penalty too light. He initially proposed hanging the captain, but eventually changed to sending him home with a stern warning and sending to the gallows in his place Australian Transport Minister Steven Joyce.

Harawira is known for controversial statements such as praising slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden for being a freedom fighter who stood up for Arabs and stating he does not want his children to date white New Zealanders.

The container vessel has spilled about 350 tons of oil since it hit a reef on the Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga Coast two weeks ago. Officials of Maritime New Zealand, who inspected the ship, said the vessel remains in one piece and would not likely break apart on the reef.

Rena had on board 11 containers of hazardous material, including ferrosilicon, which could burst into flame if it contacts water.

Salvage work on the vessel and coastal cleanup efforts were both temporarily stopped by bad weather.

World - New Zealand MP Proposes Hanging for Filipino Captain of Oil Slicking Ship | Global Viewpoint