Sun, Aug 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Swire Shipping to cover cleanup costs of Australian spill

REUTERS , SYDNEY

UK-based Swire Shipping said yesterday it had reached a deal with the Australian government on compensation for an oil spill this year that hit pristine tourist beaches in northeastern Australia.

The shipping firm will pay A$25 million (US$21 million) in compensation for the spill from the ship Pacific Adventurer, which spread 270 tonnes of fuel oil onto beaches north of Brisbane, in Queensland state’s picturesque Sunshine Coast.

The disaster occurred when a cyclone hit the area in March. A massive cleanup was mounted involving 2,500 people, which enabled the beaches to reopen within nine weeks.

“We very much regret the accident, caused by Cyclone Hamish, that resulted in the oil spill — and also the effect of the spill on the Queensland coastal environment and the people of Queensland,” Swire’s chairman in Australia, Bill Rothery, said in a statement.

The company said the A$25 million compensation was well above its legal obligations and was in addition to A$2 million it had already spent on the clean-up. It would also ensure that private businesses affected would receive more than they otherwise would have, the company said.

At the time of the accident, Swire agreed to pay all the cleanup costs. However, last month Queensland Premier Anna Bligh accused the company of trying to backtrack on that commitment and leave taxpayers with much of the bill.

Bligh yesterday said the deal was fair to taxpayers.

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