Wed, Nov 07, 2007 - Page 2 News List

EPA seals historic settlement after `Samho' collision

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and representatives of the Samho and the TS Hong Kong, involved in a collision in 2005, reached a settlement yesterday.

The settlement marked the first time government departments jointly engaged in negotiations with a lawsuit defendant and had reached a settlement outside of court, Department of Water Quality Protection Leu Horng-guang (呂鴻光) told the media.

In 2005, Samho Brother, registered in South Korea, capsized after colliding with the TS Hong Kong, registered in Hong Kong, off the Hsinchu coast, releasing 3,100 tonnes of benzene as well as 85 tonnes of fuel and 16 tonnes of diesel into the ocean, Leu said.

At the time of collision an emergency response mechanism was activated, involving government agencies including the EPA, the Ministry of National Defense, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Coast Guard Administration, and the Fisheries Agency Council, resulting in NT$48 million (US1.4 million) in administrative costs, the department section chief Hsu Jen-tse (許仁澤) said.

"EPA represented all the involved governmental agencies and negotiated with Gard P&I Club, the TS Hong Kong's insurer," Hsu said.

"Gard has agreed to settle and pay NT$48 million," he said.

MTC investigations deemed TS Hong Kong and Samho Brother were 85 percent and 15 percent responsible for the collision respectively, Hsu said.

He said that Gard also agreed to pay the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and National Taiwan Ocean University a sum that possibly reaches as much as NT$30 million for the seawater and ecosystem monitoring costs the shipwreck incurred.

Local fishermen's associations, including those in Hsinchu (新竹), Nanliao (南寮) and Jhongli (中壢), are still litigating for their losses, Hsu said, adding that the associations are asking for NT$600 million in total.

Bidding for the removal of residual benzene will open in December, Leu said.

"ITRI monitoring currently shows the benzene level in the seawater around the site of collision to be undetectable," Leu said.

He also said that "at this level, benzene can be safely processed by the body without major health concerns."

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