Thu, Aug 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

EPA source reveals news of `Amorgos' spill compensation

AT LAST An EPA section chief told the `Taipei Times' that the owners of a ship that fouled Kenting's coastline in 2001 had agreed to make restitution

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sources from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) confirmed yesterday that the owner of the Amorgos, the cargo ship registered in Greece that spilled oil off the coast of Kenting National Park in 2001, had offered to pay compensation.

The EPA is expected to hold a press conference this week to make an official announcement.

Hsu Jen-tse (許仁澤), chief of the EPA's marine pollution prevention section, confirmed to the Taipei Times yesterday that the company had finally admitted that the oil that devastated Taiwan's coastline five years ago had leaked from its vessel, and agreed to compensate the nation for the damage caused.

Hsu said that the ship owner was willing to offer a package of approximately NT$34 million (US$1.05 million). The amount does not include expenses incurred for lawsuits and some other miscellaneous charges, he said.

Hsu, however, refused to divulge further details of the compensation package.

"The company is concerned about its reputation and the long term repercussions of the spill," he said, "We will issue an official statement regarding this matter in a couple of days."

The EPA made the comments in the wake of a report published in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday that said the company was now willing to reimburse Taiwan.

The report also said that the compensation had already been transferred into the EPA's bank account and would be handed over to the management of Kenting National Park to help restore the damaged coastline environment.

Commencing its voyage from India, the cargo ship ran aground near Kenting on its way to China on Jan. 14, 2001.

An estimated 1,150 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea four days later after inclement weather destabilized the stricken vessel. The spillage contaminated coastal areas in Oluanpi and damaged nearby coral reefs.

The failure of the EPA to cope adequately with the shipwreck and the subsequent oil spillage led to the removal of former EPA administrator Lin Jun-yi (林俊義).

Lin was replaced by Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who later made a claim for NT$350 million in compensation from the company to cover cleanup expenses, ecological losses and estimated costs for environmental restoration work.

Negotiations between the government and the shipping company broke down in 2003, and the EPA filed a lawsuit the same year in a court in Norway, where the ship's insurance company is registered.

The court issued a verdict in January last year, ruling that the owner of the ship should compensate the Taiwanese government to the tune of NT$9.5 million. However, the court ruled that Taiwan would have to meet its own legal expenses, which amounted to NT$16.74 million.

The EPA originally planned to appeal the ruling, but decided against doing so after evaluating its chances of success.

A compromise now appears to have been reached.

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