Oil spill off Korea’s west coast

Originally published here on December 12, 2007

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http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/12/07/asia/AS-GEN-SKorea-Oil-Spill.php?WT.mc_id=rssfrontpage

SEOUL, South Korea: A crane-carrying vessel slammed into a Hong Kong-registered oil tanker in seas off South Korea’s west coast Friday causing the tanker to leak about 66,000 barrels of crude oil, officials said.

The collision at around 7:30 a.m. (1630 GMT Thursday) left holes in three containers aboard the 146,000-ton tanker Hebei Spirit, leading to what was believed to South Korea’s largest offshore oil leak, a Maritime and Fisheries Ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity, citing office policy.

The spill released about 66,000 barrels (10.5 million liters; 2.7 million gallons), said Coast Guard officer Jung Se-hi. Earlier, ministry officials had cited a larger figure of about 110,000 barrels for the spill.

Another ministry official said that spills from two containers were stopped about three hours after the collision, but oil was still leaking from the third container.

That official, who also did not give his name, said the amount of the spilled oil could change.

YTN, a 24-hour cable news channel, showed footage of the black oil gushing out of the ship and into the ocean.

There were no human casualties in the accident. The extent of its potential damage to communities or wildlife in the area was not immediately clear, the ministry official said.

The tanker was at anchor about 8 kilometers (5 miles) off Mallipo beach, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Seoul, carrying about 260,000 tons of crude oil — or about 1.8 million barrels — when it was hit by another vessel that was carrying a crane, the first ministry official said.

The previously largest oil spill in South Korea happened in 1995 when about 5,035 tons — about 35,000 barrels — of crude and fuel oil was leaked, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker released about 260,000 barrels, or 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in what turned into a major environmental disaster.

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Associated Press writers Kelly Olsen, Hyung-jin Kim and Jae-yeon Lim contributed to this report.

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