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Republic Of Korea: Hebei Spirit Oil Spill Report 2

This situation report is based on information received from the joint European Commission - United Nations rapid assessment team on site and from their contacts with the national authorities of the Republic of Korea (RoK).

Republic of Korea: Hebei Spirit Oil Spill OCHA Situation Report No. 2

I. Situation

1. On 7 December 2007, a crane-carrying barge hit the Hong Kong-registered tanker "Hebei Spirit", which was anchored approximately eight kilometres off Malipo in the Taean district on the west coast of the RoK, after a wire linking the barge to a tugboat was cut.

2. Three of five containers on the "Hebei Spirit" were punctured, releasing roughly 10,500 metric tonnes of crude oil into the sea. The "Hebei Spirit" was carrying a total of 260,000 metric tonnes of crude oil. No casualties were reported.

3. On 8 December, waves of crude oil began washing ashore, affecting seabirds and threatening various fish farms. The stretch of coastline affected by the oil spill is 100 kilometres south of Seoul and is an important habitat for migrating birds, as well as being a significant fishing industry.

4. A major clean-up operation is underway. As of 14 December, 9,225 metric tonnes of oily waste (sand, oil, rags to absorb oil) and a further 1,528 metric tonnes of oil/water mixture, containing an estimated 550 metric tonnes of oil was collected.

5. Approximately 200,000 people, mostly volunteers, have been involved in the clean up. In addition to the use of 327 vessels, 17 airplanes and 13 helicopters.

6. Currently, the oil is moving south due to wind and tides. The aim at present is to stop the spread of free-floating oil at sea further south.

7. Substantial negative economic impacts are reported as a result of the spill, including effects on the livelihoods of up to 27,000 aquaculture workers. Over 90 per cent of fish farms in the affected area are reported to be impacted. Approximately 160 kilometres of coastline is affected to date.

8. Priority areas for immediate clean up include aquaculture regions, migratory bird habitats and the water intake for a power plant.

9. The liquid waste is delivered to a refinery for processing and treatment. The solid waste is transported to an incinerator.

II. National Response

10. The Government of RoK declared a state of disaster on the first day of the incident and immediately launched an emergency operation. A central operations room was established in Seoul to provide information and serve as a clearinghouse for international and national liaison and coordination.

11. Clean up operations are being managed by the Korean Coast Guard from Taean. An Oil Response Committee was set up, which includes local and provincial authorities.

12. The Ministry of Environment is guiding the oil removal process and will also support issues related to restoration.

13. The Government of RoK authorized USD 170 million in loans for the oil spill response and indicated that it will consider tax relief in the context of the oil spill.

14. The Government of RoK sought advice from the European Commission-United Nations rapid assessment team on a range of issues including: efficient clean-up procedures, environmental mitigation measures, as well as minimizing economic losses and long-term restoration.

III. International Response

15. A joint European Commission-United Nations rapid environmental assessment team is on site. The team travelled to the affected area to provide advice and support to national authorities to mitigate the effects of the spill.

16. Japan sent a team of experts from 15-23 December following a request of the RoK authorities. It will also be sending 40 tonnes of dispersants (expected to arrive on 20 December).

17. China reportedly sent 56 tonnes of dispersants on 15 December.

18. The United States Coast Guard/NOAA sent a team to provide expert advice on 13 December.

19. A private company from Singapore (EARL) provided aircraft support.

ENDS

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