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Human error blamed for Korea's worst oil spill; single hull clampdown in the offing

Human error blamed for Korea's worst oil spill; single hull clampdown in the offing

Seoul: The nation's largest oil spill was found to have been caused by human error, an interim report said.
About 1,900 metric tons of crude oil spilled after a crane on a barge that came unmoored from its tugboats punched holes in a Hong Kong-registered tanker, Hebei Spirit owned by HOSCO, in strong winds in waters off Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, on December 7.
Announcing an interim report on the inquiry into the accident, the Coast Guard said the captains of the tugs and the barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries had direct responsibility for the spill, after sailing in rough seas. They knew that a warning for strong tides was issued five hours before the crash, but set sail without taking counter-measures to avoid the dangers.
The captains also failed to respond to two emergency radio calls from the Daesan Port authorities hours before the crash.
According to investigators, two hours before the crash, the captains belatedly decided to head toward safety, but it was too late owing to winds as strong as 14 meters per second. The towline between one of the tugs and the barge was severed 14 minutes before the barge crashed into the tanker, they said.
The Indian captain of the tanker also knew of the dangers of a crash but couldn't move swiftly or take preventative measures, they said. ''The captain could not take full and necessary measures to avoid the crash although he knew a ship was approaching after losing control in bad weather,'' said Choi Sang-hwan, chief of the Taean Coast Guard.
Meanwhile, South Korea plans to bring forward a ban on visits by single-hulled tankers, a maritime official said Friday. "Following the accident, we plan to advance the timetable to phase out singled-hulled vessels," Lee Ki-Sang, deputy director of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, told AFP. He said South Korea originally planned to phase out visits by those vessels by 2015 but it is now considering advancing the deadline by up to five years. [24/12/07]

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