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Fishermen paid damages for pollution
By Qin Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-27 22:15

A Maltese shipping company and its British insurer have been required to pay compensation of about 17 million yuan (US$2.1 million) to thousands of fishermen in North China's Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province, a local newspaper in Tianjin reported.

The Tianjin maritime court pronounced the verdict on Friday as part of the result of a series of lawsuits over an oil spill that occurred after the Maltese oil tanker Tasman Sea and a Chinese vessel collided in the Bohai Sea near Tianjin in November 2002.

The cases were filed in 2002 by the Tianjin oceanic bureau, the Tianjin fishing supervision and management office, three fishermen's associations including one from the Luannan County, North China's Hebei Province, and two from Tianjin's Tanggu District, as well as fishermen from Tianjin's Hangu region.

The compensation demanded by the plaintiffs totals 170 million yuan (US$20.5 million), according to an earlier report of the China Environment News.

The defendants, the Infinity Shipping Co Ltd and the London Steam Ship Owners' Mutual Insurance Association Ltd, as well as their attorney, could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to the Tianjin newspaper Metro Express, verdicts in lawsuits filed by the two Tianjin government bodies, who claim the spill caused damage to the ocean ecology and fishing resources, will come out soon.

Jiang Jingye, an attorney for the Dagu and Beitang fishermen's associations from Tianjin's Tanggu District, said the compensation to his clients is only 1.7 million yuan (US$205,000), which is far less than the original demand of more than 8 million yuan (US$967,000).

But he told China Daily whether or not his clients will appeal to the court remains unknown.

He added only after both the plaintiffs and the defendants show no objection to the verdict can the fishermen receive the compensation.

According to the China Environment News report, the Tianjin oceanic bureau's compensation claim is the first one in China made for the ocean environment.

The bureau asked for more than 94 million yuan (US$11.3 million) from the defendants, the report said.

The report said a local monitoring centre had said the oil spill had caused great damage to the maritime environment there.

However, Liu Zuoming, attorney of the Infinity Shipping Company Ltd, was quoted as saying that although the company does not object paying compensation, the amount must be calculated correctly.

He told China Environment News that according to a report prepared by some experts from the Ocean University of China, the damages are not as severe as described by the plaintiffs.

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