South Korea offshore oil spill investigated

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 -- South Korean authorities said the Hong Kong-based oil tanker, Hebei Spirit, spilled 12,547 kl of crude oil into the sea west of the Korean Peninsula, an increase of 19.5%, or 2,047 kl, over the earlier estimate of 10,500 kl.

The Marine Accidents Inquiry Agency said the tanker was carrying 302,641 kl of crude oil and began losing oil after it was hit Dec. 7 by a barge in the sea about 15 km off western T'aean, South Chungcheong province, South Korea.

An MAIA official said it was difficult to correctly calculate the amount of crude left in the tanker because the ship was tilted at 6-7° after the accident. The tanker sailed to Daesan Port in Seosan.

The Hebei Spirit spill is considered South Korea's worst. Officials have described it as being about one third of the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster, which cost a reported $9.5 billion to clean up and settle.

The Hebei Spirit tanker is registered to the Hebei Spirit Shipping Co., of Hong Kong. The firm's manager is HOSCO, (Hebei Ocean Shipping Co.), of Haigang Qu, Qinhuangdao Hebei.

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