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Cleanup in bay after oil spill; disaster fund nears

(China Daily)

08:54, October 17, 2011

BEIJING / NANJING - The latest oil spill to hit China's northeastern coast was brought under control and cleaned up in about 24 hours, authorities have said.

The leak, which happened in Liaodong Bay, one of three bays making up the Bohai Gulf, did not affect the surrounding shoreline, although the area remains under close observation, according to a statement from the State Oceanic Administration on Saturday.

"The oil sheen was cleaned up by 4:30 pm (on Saturday), except for some floating bands containing a little oil, and no clear oil was detected on the surrounding coast by 6 pm," said the statement.

China Daily was unable to contact officials on Sunday for an update on the information.

An estimated 0.38 cubic meters of oil leaked from the Jinzhou 9-3 West oilfield on Friday afternoon after a work vessel ruptured an underwater pipeline, said China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), which operates the platform.

The incident prompted environmental authorities to issue a level-three alert.

Company spokesman Jiang Yongzhi said on Sunday that technicians halted operations on the rig's Platform B immediately to allow crews to seal the leak, reducing production by 1,600 barrels a day.

"Repairs on the damaged pipeline will take 10 days to complete," he said, without giving details on when the work will start.

Meanwhile, a senior official has suggested that a long-awaited plan to force oil companies to pay more toward helping the victims of environmental disasters could finally be established this year.

China's Ship Oil Pollution Compensation Fund has already been seven years in the making. However, Xu Jixiang, deputy director of ship supervision for the Maritime Safety Administration, said last Wednesday that he believes the recent spate of spills may have accelerated the process, although there is still no set date for its introduction.

Contributors to the fund will be regular receivers of oil shipments transported by sea to Chinese ports, such as Sinopec, PetroChina and CNOOC.

According to the draft plan, companies or agents will pay 0.3 yuan for every ton of oil transported. With more than 3 million tons transported in Chinese waters every day, that means the fund will generate roughly 1 million yuan ($156,000) a day.

The money will be useful in massive incidents and will help improve the country's emergency response capabilities to maritime pollution disasters, Xu said at a national work conference on maritime affairs in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.

About 296 accidents occurred during sea transport between September 2010 and August this year, causing direct economic losses of almost 40 million yuan, 21.7 percent more than the same period last year, official statistics show.

Xu Zuyuan, deputy transport minister, expressed his concerns about the security of large cargo ships by saying: "The aftermath is potentially incalculable."

About 226 million tons of crude oil was discharged in China's ports, a year-on-year rise of 18.3 percent.

To minimize the damage caused by oil spills, the Maritime Safety Administration has pledged to improve its capacity in dealing with incidents at sea, as well as set up a professional cleanup team for offshore spills, Chen Aiping, its deputy director, said at the work conference.

Zhou Yan contributed to this story.

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