Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan seeks NT$350m for 2001 `Amorgos' spill

ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER After admitting that negotiations with the ship's insurer had failed, the EPA intends to seek compensation in the courtroom for the incident


The Taiwan government plans to sue the insurer of a Greek freighter for more than NT$350 million for an oil spill along an ecological reserve in 2001, Environmental Protection Administrator Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) made the announcement after admitting that negotiations between the government and Assuranceforeningen Gard (Gjensidig), a Norway-based insurance company representing the owner of the Greek-registered MV Amorgos, had failed.

On Jan. 14, 2001, the Amorgos, on its way from Indonesia to China, ran aground near Kenting National Park in Pingtung County due to bad weather. Four days later, 1,150 tonnes of fuel oil remaining on the ship began to leak, contaminating 6,987m2 of the Lungkeng Ecological Reserve.

Although Hau said last year that the agency had requested an additional NT$900 million in compensation from the insurance company, the amount turned out to be only NT$350 million after evaluation.

Hau said yesterday that the government estimates that the oil spill led to the loss of NT$90 million in local economic activity.

In addition, Hau said, Taiwan would have to spend NT$240 million to restore the damaged ecological reserve and NT$18 million in monitoring ecological systems along the coast.

However, Hau said that the insurer disagreed with the government's evaluation and refused to pay the amount demanded.

"We are sorry to see this attitude. So the EPA will soon file a lawsuit on behalf of the government for NT$350 million in compensation," Hau said at a press conference.

The suit will be filed on Friday in Pingtung County, where the spill occurred, and next Tuesday in Norway, where the insurance company is registered, according to Hau.

"The pollution caused not only economic and ecological damage but also damaged the country's dignity," Hau said.

Hau said the EPA had been well-prepared for the failure of negotiations last year, entrusting a Norwegian law firm, W Vogt & Wing, to study filing a lawsuit in the country.

EPA officials said the law firm has ensured that the absence of official diplomatic ties between the two nations would not affect Taiwan's rights.

In addition, according to the EPA, one reason lawyers suggested filing a lawsuit in both Taiwan and Norway was that a verdict issued in Taiwan might not be admitted in Norway.

EPA officials said that Norwegian lawyers estimate it may take four or five years for a decision on the case to be made.

So far, Taiwan has received NT$61.3 million in compensation for the cleanup of the oil spill from the ship's insurer.

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