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Blame laid on Samsung for Hebei Spirit disaster

Blame laid on Samsung for Hebei Spirit disaster

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, reported the Associated Press.

The December 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 at the Foreign Correspondents Club 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.

Earlier this week, South Korean prosecutors said they charged crew members on both vessels, including the three South Korean captains of the barge and its two tugboats, along with two Indians who operated Hebei Spirit, accusing them of polluting the ocean and professional negligence.

V. Ships chief executive Robert Bishop said he was confident the two Indian operators would be exonerated.

Both Liu and Bishop said they sympathized with victims of the spill.

"To lose one's livelihood is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to those small businesses who are suffering," Liu said.

Much of the public anger has been directed toward Samsung, not Hebei Spirit's owners.

Samsung, which issued a public apology for the accident published in major South Korean newspapers Tuesday, has said it will deal with compensation as required by law.

The South Korean government has promised financial aid, but payments have been delayed. Three people distraught over the slow compensation process have committed suicide in recent weeks.   25-01-08