Companies Swap Accusations over Oil Spill

Monday, March 03, 2008
Defense lawyers from rival companies wrangled over who was to blame for South Korea's worst oil spill as the trial resumed of five people accused of negligence, according to AFP. The owners of the Hong Kong-registered supertanker Hebei Spirit denied responsibility at the third hearing of the case in Seosan, 90 kilometres (54 miles) southwest of Seoul.

They insisted through lawyers that the spill on December 7 was attributable to irresponsible actions by the operators of a Samsung Heavy Industries barge, according to Yonhap news agency. The barge carrying a construction crane snapped its cables to two tugs in rough seas and rammed the anchored 147,000-ton supertanker, holing it in three places and spilling 10,900 tons of crude. Scores of marine farms and miles of beaches, notably in Taean county about 110 kilometres southwest of Seoul, were devastated.

The Korean skippers of the barge and two tugboats and the tanker's captain and chief officer, who are Indian nationals, have been charged with negligence and violating anti-pollution laws. Samsung Heavy Industries and Hebei Shipping, a Hong Kong corporation that owns the tanker, are also accused of violating anti-pollution laws. The tanker's lawyers accused Samsung of ignoring safety rules and of using old and recycled cables, which the company purchased from Japan in 1995 to save money. Samsung's lawyers said the safety of the cables had been fully confirmed by South Korean investigators. They faulted the tanker's crew for their allegedly late response to warnings of a possible collision with the drifting barge. The barge snapped its cables while trying hard to avoid a collision because the tanker sailed towards it, they said. The tanker's owners and managers have previously said the ship was anchored at the time. They have said it was impossible for the ship to have weighed anchor in time to avoid a collision, which took place nine minutes after the towlines snapped.

Source: AFP

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