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Tanker Spills Oil Off South Korea
By Wendy Heller, December 8, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Nytimes.com

A Hong Kong-registered oil tanker leaked 10,810 tons, or 66,000 barrels, of crude oil off South Korea’s stormy west coast today, officials said, in what was estimated to be the nation’s largest maritime oil spill.

A band of oil about three miles long was snaking slowly toward the coast, which is dotted with scenic beaches, wildlife habitats and oyster and other fishing beds.

“So far, we have no reports of damage,” said Kim Jong-seok, an official at the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry. “Much will depend on how the sea currents move in coming hours. We have 40 vessels out there fighting the oil spill.”

The spill occurred when a vessel carrying a crane crashed into the 147,000-ton tanker Hebei Spirit this morning about five nautical miles off the coast near Taean, 90 miles southwest of Seoul.

The collision caused three gashes in the tanker’s hull. Photographs released by the maritime ministry showed crude oil spurting from the holes. There were no casualties.

The tanker was carrying 1.8 million barrels of crude oil. In the previous largest offshore oil spill in South Korea, an oil tanker spilled 30,740 barrels of crude and fuel off the south coast in 1995, costing 96 billion won, or $101 million, in cleanup operations and damages to fishermen.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker released about 240,000 barrels of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, causing a major environmental disaster.

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