December 9, 2007
South Korea declares spill disaster
The South Korean government has declared a state of disaster in the western coastal area of the country. The declaration was made Saturday evening, after spilled crude oil from the 269,000 dwt (146,000 gt) single hulled tanker Hebei Spirit began spreading to the western coastal area of South Chungcheong province, which is dotted with national parks and fish farms.
As of 5.00 p.m. Saturday, 17 kilometers of the province’s coastline had been covered by an oil slick which has been pushed by tides and the wind, with the oil still leaking from the tanker, officials said.
The Hong Kong-registered tanker, which was waiting to enter port, was reportedly struck by an an 11,800-ton barge on Friday morning, causing about 10,500 tons of oil to leak into waters about 8.3 kilometers northwest off Taean county, about 110 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
A crane being carried by the barge hit the tanker, puncturing three holes in the vessel.
The 1993-built Hebei Spirit (ex-Almare, ex-Apollo Ohshima) is registered to the Hebei Spirit Shipping Co., Hong Kong. Its manager is HOSCO, (Hebei Ocean Shipping Co.), of Haigang Qu, Qinhuangdao Hebei, and which is the manager, ISM manager or registered owner of some 28 ships, the Hebei Spirit being the newest and largest.
Earlier Saturday, the Korean Coast Guard dispatched some 103 ships and five aircraft to the area and built a 4.2 km oil fence along the southwestern shore to contain the oil, officials said.
The spill is the largest in Korea’s history, about twice the size of a leak of 5,035 tons in 1995, the country’s worst oil spill before Friday’s accident.
The disaster is expected to hurt tourism businesses and oyster and abalone farming in the ecologically pristine Taean county. Some 5,650 hectares of fish farms operate there.