Fri, Nov 26, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan waits Norway's verdict on 2001 oil spill

ENVIRONMENTAL CASE The government has sued the owner and insurance firm of the ship that wrecked off Kenting National Park. Judgement is due next month

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Court proceedings for Taiwan's first international lawsuit seeking compensation for the ecological damage caused by the 2001 oil spill from the MV Amorgos began in Norway early this month and the judgment is expected before the Christmas holidays, the Environ-mental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

On Jan. 14, 2001, the Greek-registered Amorgos, en route from Indonesia to China, ran aground near Kenting National Park in bad weather. Four days later, 1,150 tonnes of fuel oil in the ship began to leak, contaminating 6,987m2 of the Lungkeng Ecological Reserve.

The spill polluted the water, damaged coastal ecological systems and interfered with fishing in the area.

Since the spill, Assuranceforeningen Gard (Gjensidig), a Norway-based insurance company repre-senting the ship's owner, has paid NT$61 million for the oil cleanup in Lungkeng, NT$1.8 million for forest restoration, NT$84.7 million for the removal of part of the shipwreck and various amounts to local fishermen.

Leu Horng-guang (呂鴻光), director-general of the EPA's Bureau of Water Quality Protection, said yesterday that the international lawsuit shows Taiwan's determination to seek justice.

"We hope to stress that ecological resources in waterways in Taiwan Strait reserve more attentions," Leu said yesterday at a press conference in Taipei.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 18, Taiwan-ese lawyers hired by the government and ecological experts from Kenting National Park Headquarters and the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, appeared in court in Arendal, Norway, to explain how the spill had hurt the park's ecology.

Experts from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research and the Institute of Marine Research appeared in court for the defense, the ship owner and Assuranceforeningen Gard.

According to Sylvia Huang (黃欣欣), an attorney with Lee and Li, the NT$350 million compensation figure was determined by a Hong Kong-based international consulting company and includes the cost of the impact on the region's ecological systems, fishery resources and tourism as well as consultant fees.

"The defense told the court that no compensation was necessary. They attributed the ecological damage and tourism losses to typhoons in 2001," Huang said.

Huang said Taiwan's representatives had done their best to provide evidence linking the spill and ecological damage but the judges said they would need at least four weeks to evaluate the case.

Fan Tung-yung (樊同雲), a biologist with the museum, told the Taipei Times that before he left for Norway a newly completed investigation of ecological losses caused by the spill had shown that the percentage of coral coverage in affected areas has fallen from 80 percent to 30 percent.

"We just have to wait and see Norway's judgment and then discuss it with the relevant governmental agencies. We don't know yet if we will appeal to a higher court if the judgement doesn't account for coral protection and ecological judgment," Leu said.

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