Compensation could total $ 192 mm for Japanese oil spill

Jan 30, 1997 01:00 AM

Compensations totalling some $ 192 mm may be available for victims of damage from the Nakhodka oil pollution incident - but under standard practice the shipowner may be asked to contribute little more than 1% of this, it has emerged. The scale of likely claims over the spill has yet to become clear, but insurers are speculating it will be less than those arising from the Braer casualty off the Shetland Islands in 1993. In the case of the Braer, total claims have exceeded international fund limits, and contested applications are still before the courts. The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, headquartered in London, said that those affected by the Nakhodka disaster will be paid compensation under Japanese legislation, based on international conventions. In a statement, the funds pointed out that the compensation system was in two layers. The shipowner and his insurer are liable to pay compensation up to a total amount related to the size of the ship, which in the case of the Nakhodkaamounts to just under Special Drawing Rights Y 260 mm ($ 2.2 mm). If this amount is insufficient to cover all accepted claims, additional compensation is payable by the funds up to a total of $ 192 mm. This would include any payments made by the shipowner and his insurer. The funds are intergovernmental organisations set up by states which are parties to the conventions, among them Japan. Payments may be made to governments, and other public bodies and private organisations which have incurred clean-up costs, or costs for preventing or minimising pollution damage. Private bodies and individuals, such as fishermen whose boats and nets have been affected, or who suffer loss of income as a result of pollution, may claim. Another key category is businesses in the tourism sector whose income is hit. Regional maritime safety agency authorities, meanwhile, warned that oil slicks were heading for the shores of Toyama and Niigata prefectures, adding to the six regions across more than 500 km which have been affected. The oil has hit the region sporadically rather than in a continuous flow, but has caused huge concern in the fisheries and tourism sectors. Agency patrol boats reported a 37 km slick near the tip of the Noto peninsula, and an official warned: "As the north wind subsides, the speed at which the oil is moving, aided by currents, will further accelerate."
One of the tanks in the bow, which split from the tanker and came up near the shore at Mikuni, is said to have a rupture, which is leaking. The agency has raised its estimate of oil spilled from the bow to 5,000 tonnes, from the earlier 3,700 tonnes suspected shortly after the January 2 casualty. Prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he has ordered officials to focus their efforts on draining fuel oil from the bow. Experts said calmer seas raised hopes that their goal of emptying the bow could be achieved within a week.

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