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Oil leak throws up fisheries issue
By Zheng Yanyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-20 06:20

DALIAN: The Dalian Municipal Marine Court has received 190-plus lawsuits to date from fisheries against a Portuguese oil tanker, which struck a rock 4.2 sea miles off Dalian Port on April 4 and spewed crude oil into local waters, sources from the court said yesterday.

Among them, around 100 of the fisheries are demanding compensation from the tanker. Whether the accident poses a serious threat to the environment is still unclear, Li Weisheng, director of the accident assessment centre under the Maritime Court, told China Daily.

The Portugal-registered Arteaga became stranded after striking the rock off Dalian Port in Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

After the accident, almost 1,000 aquatic breeding companies and households began seeking compensation for their loss.

Six teams made up of the Maritime Court's 16 judges went to the more heavily polluted areas to offer legal services on April 9.

The judges answered people's questions and reminded them of the possible risks involved with litigation.

The same day, representatives of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd and a British protection and indemnity association, which insured the tanker, arrived to investigate the pollution.

Crude oil could still be seen floating in the affected area which smelt acrid just several days ago, said Li Jingyang, manager of Shanri Marine Company.

The company's aquatic breeding area is located just 1 nautical mile from the accident site.

"Though we can't see the oil now, large amounts of shellfish and sea cucumbers that we bred have died. We're suffering heavy losses," he said.

Yu Zhiman, manager of Jingang Earth Industrial Co, said after the incident, a Japan-based food company cancelled a contract with the firm.

"The loss of the contract has cost us 1 million yuan (US$120,000)," he said.

The Maritime Court has entrusted experts from the Liaoning Provincial Maritime Environmental Monitoring and Inspection Station with the job of collecting samples.

Recently, marine experts, judges and representatives of prosecutors and defendants have been taking samples in the area.

Due to the number of species involved and the size of the area, examinations can only be completed by the end of this month, experts said.

The court will open as soon as the official lawsuit is received and the final conclusion of experts is submitted, a judge said.

Sources from the court said that as new lawsuits are filed every day, a definite date cannot be finalized.

The oil tanker, 273.4 metres long and 43.2 metres wide, was carrying about 120,000 tons of crude oil from Yemen to Dalian New Port.

Preliminary investigations show the accident was caused by the captain's neglect leading to a deviation from the prescribed course.

(China Daily 04/20/2005 page3)

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