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Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Greeks' release still uncertain

OIL SPILL A high-level meeting on the detainment of two crew from the `Amorgos' was unable to reach a conclusion yesterday, despite international calls for their release

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A decision to lift a detention order for two members of the Greek-registered M/V Amorgos is still pending, government officials said yesterday.

The Amorgos spilled roughly 1,150 tonnes of fuel oil into waters near Kenting National Park in January.

With international pressure to release the two crew members mounting, a Cabinet task force on the matter convened yesterday to discuss the possibility of lifting the detention order, but was unable to reach a conclusion.

Environmental Protection Administration officials said the meeting yesterday was just a preliminary discussion on the matter.

"We will hold more meetings in the near future to develop strategies for using specific channels to urge both the shipping company and its insurance agent to offer Taiwan a letter of undertaking," said the administration's head, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) at a press conference yesterday.

The administration's officials said a letter of undertaking from the shipping company or its insurance agency would ensure the firms would not avoid responsibility for dealing with the spill.

In addition to the environmental administration, the ministries of justice, foreign affairs and transportation and communications were also involved in yesterday's discussion.

Hau said the meeting was convened at the request of the foreign ministry.

During the meeting, the administration explained to the foreign ministry the legal reasons for the detainment of Amargos Captain Evangelos Lazaridis and Chief Engineer Vasileios Sardis.

Hau said the two were being held under the Ocean Pollution Control Act.

"We need them to assist with the investigation into the cause of the accident, as well as help with its cleanup and issues related to compensation," Hau said.

Hau denied rumors that Taiwan's compensation request is unreasonably large and is keeping the shipping company, Nissos Armogos Shipping Corp, from giving Taiwan a letter of undertaking.

"We don't even know the total losses yet because a foreign company is still estimating the total ecological loss and will not have any results until September," Hau said.

Foreign affairs officials confirmed yesterday at the press conference that the administration's decision to detain the two Greek citizens had created some diplomatic challenges.

"We have received pressure from diverse sources, such as the detainees' families, human rights groups, the Greek government and even the Greek congress," said David Lin (林永樂), director general of the ministry's department of European affairs.

Hau said that it was time for local environmental groups to pressure the international community for the sake of environmental protection.

Representatives of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台權會), which filed a petition for the immediate release of the detainees on July 25, told the Taipei Times they had yet to receive a response.

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