Damage from oil spill estimated to 17 bn yen

Feb 18, 1997 01:00 AM

Feb. 4, 1997 Damage from thousands of tons of fuel oil that leaked into the Sea of Japan from a wrecked Russian tanker will likely total 16-17 billion yen, a neutral expert said.The Japan representative of the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund said the cost of oil-cleanup and oil-collecting alone amount to an estimated 9 billion yen. The Russian tanker Nakhodka broke up Jan. 2 in stormy seas off the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, spilling at least 4,500 tons of fuel oil into the sea. The oil has polluted beaches and damaged marine resources along a vast stretch of the Sea of Japan coast. Damage to the local fisheries and tourist industries as well as money needed to finance operations to salvage some 1,800 tons from the tanker's bow, which ran aground off Mikuni, Fukui Prefecture, will boost the bill to 16-17 billion yen. The estimate is based on reports by neutral appraisers commissioned by the fund who made fact-finding missions to the affected areas. Should efforts to pump out the remaining 2,000 kilolitres of oil from the Nakhodka's bow fail, resulting in a further oil leakage, damage to marine resources and costs for cleaning up the mess would most likely push overall damage above the 25 billion yen maximum that can be paid out under an international convention on oil pollution damage, the expert said. The Petroleum Association of Japan, an oil industry body, has predicted that overall damage will top that figure. The International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damages requires signatory countries to make payments in proportion to the amount of oil they deal in. The fund's appraisers did not recognise the need for building a makeshift access way leading from Mikuni's shore to the tanker's bow section, which is why construction costs have not been included in the damage estimate and why Japan will most likely not be compensated for it from the fund or from the Nakhodka owner's insurance, the expert said. The expert stressed that the current estimate is ''still a very rough one,'' because efforts to clean up the oil spill are still under way.

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