Tue, Dec 26, 2006 - Page 2 News List

EPA, Suao fishermen seek compensation for oil spill

DOZING OFF The oil spill that has damaged 9km of coastline and prevented fishermen from working was caused by negligence and the owner has to pay

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fisherman Li Chun-sheng smells the fish he caught to see if they absorbed an oil resulting from the oil spill near the Tingchih fishing ground in Ilan yesterday. Fortunately, the fish were not affected.

PHOTO: YANG YI-MIN, TAIPEI TIMES

The Environment Protection Administration (EPA) and Suao (蘇澳) fishermen yesterday asked that the owner of a Maltese cargo ship take responsibility for an oil leak that affected Taiwan's eastern coastline.

"The operator of the ship ostensibly dozed off while he was piloting his ship. The grounding incident was an act of negligence and the owner of the ship should take responsibility," EPA Minister Chang Kow-lung (張國龍) told reporters yesterday while inspecting the scene of the incident.

Chang said he suspected the ship did not lose power before hitting the rocks.

Officials yesterday declined requests by Taiwanese ship owners that the vessel be immediately pulled away from the scene.

"There is still a certain amount of oil in the oil tank. By moving the ship we would risk causing an oil leak," Chang added.

Following a request by the EPA, the owner of the ship yesterday dispatched workmen to draw out the remaining oil in the oil tank.

Chang added that the ship would not be moved until the authorities and the ship owner had cleaned up the pollution along the coastline and ensured that the oil tank was completely empty.

The EPA will carry out an investigation into the impact of the accident on the marine environment, the local fisheries and the landscape by the incident, the costs of which will be covered by the ship owners, Chang said.

Director of the Suao Fishery Association Lin Yueh-ying (林月英) said the pollution damaged a coral reef along the Suao coastline.

"Fishermen's nets set along the coastline were also soaked with oil," she added.

She said the fishermen would ask for compensation from the ship owner.

The incident took place on Sunday morning, when the Tzini drifted to within 70m of the shoreline and was grounded.

Soon afterwards, an oil tank ruptured and the ship started leaking oil. Strong winds and the current then spread the leak into the ocean.

The accident affected a 9km stretch of coastline between Suao and Hualien County, turning the ocean water grayish.

The Suao coastline is mostly composed of cliffs, making the work of environment officers difficult as they tried to set up boom nets to prevent the oil from spreading.

In many cases, the oil flowed over the nets and into the sea.

The vessel, which had begun its journey in Japan, was scheduled to make a stop at Hualien Harbor, where it was to pick up mineral cargo from Taiwan Cement.

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