HONG KONG – The owner and operators of the tanker involved in South Korea’s worst oil spill denied any wrongdoing Thursday and offered sympathy to locals affected by the environmental fallout.
The Dec. 7 accident occurred after a barge owned by South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group slammed into Hong Kong-registered tanker Hebei Spirit, which leaked 78,920 barrels of oil into western coastal waters.
The owner of Hebei Spirit, Hebei Spirit Shipping Co., and its operator, V. Ships, both denied wrongdoing at a press conference in Hong Kong on Thursday.
“The master and crew of the vessel did their utmost to firstly avoid any collision, and secondly, made all possible effort to minimize any oil spill,” Hebei Spirit Shipping Co. director Liu Shibao said.
The accident jeopardized the ecosystem and the livelihood of residents in the area, home to some of the country’s most scenic beaches.
Milblogger GI at ROK Drop has done some excellent posts on the spill and its aftermath. Click here, here, and here. One post telling how US military stationed in South Korea have helped with the cleanup.
An anchored tanker with 260,000 tonnes of crude oil was somehow supposed to avert the disaster. It’s not as if you turn on the ignition and hit the gas and the tanker takes off. Reports say it was less than fifteen minutes from the time the barge broke free till it struck the tanker.
Why was the barge and tug under way at the time in such rough seas? The Hebei Spirit was where it was supposed to be, and it just seems hard to believe the ship’s crew are at fault for what happened. The owner of the barge and tug is Samsung, A giant Korean conglomerate. On the other hand, the Hebei Spirit’s owners are based out of Hong Kong. Draw your own conclusions about the motives for booking the Captain and first mate of the tanker.