Fri, Dec 29, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Maltese ship owner faces another fine over oil spill

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Coast guards supervise the Maltese cargo ship Tzini outside Suao Harbor yesterday. Without obtaining approval, the Tzini took advantage of darkness on Wednesday night to pull itself free from where it had run aground on Dec. 24.

PHOTO: CNA

The owner of a Maltese ship that ran aground in waters off Suao Port (蘇澳港) in Ilan County four days ago and began leaking fuel oil is facing another NT$1.5 million (US$45,872) fine for moving the ship away without extracting the remaining fuel oil first.

The 23,000-tonne Tzini ran aground Dec. 24, about 5km off Suao after losing power.

The Bureau of Environmental Protection under the Ilan County Government has estimated that at least 100 tonnes of the more than 700 tonnes of fuel oil carried by the ship has leaked into adjacent waters.

Bureau officials said they had given a specific order to the ship's owner not to tow the ship away from the scene without removing the remaining fuel oil on the vessel and before a solution is worked out on the pollution issue.

However, in the darkness of Wednesday night, the owner arranged for a tugboat to tow the ship to a location about 8km away from where it had been grounded, the officials said.

The officials had earlier fined the ship owner NT$1.5 million for failing to act in time to control the spreading oil slick. They said a second fine of the same amount will be issued to the owner for towing the vessel away without permission from local environmental authorities.

Tzou Tsan-yang (鄒燦陽), director of Ilan County's Bureau of Environmental Protection, said the county government has notified the Ministry of Transportation and Communication that it has filed a complaint seeking the detention of the US$10 million ship until the owner pays NT$100 million -- the estimated cost of cleaning up the oil spill.

The Tzini was traveling with no cargo from Japan to Hualien port in eastern Taiwan, where it was scheduled to be loaded with a cargo of cement for delivery back to Japan, when it lost power and began drifting.

The Coast Guard Administration received the ship's SOS signal and dispatched a rescue helicopter. Rescuers pulled the ship's 24 crew members to safety.

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