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Ocean Polluters Must Be Told to Pay

China is in dire need of a compensation mechanism for ocean pollution, especially for oil spills. 


A complete and unified compensation mechanism is one of the highlights of the International Conference on Marine Pollution Prevention and Legal Remedies taking place in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province. The conference runs until Wednesday.


More than 140 officials, experts and scholars from eight countries are attending the conference. Topics include research on prevention of marine pollution and legal remedies as well as pollution along rivers that empty into the sea.


Chen Jian, of the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), said a workable mechanism has not been established for compensation of damages caused by pollution of the sea. The results are delayed or non-existent payments.


This not only damages the prestige of maritime departments but may also exert negative influence on the economic development of some regions.


Wu Xianfeng, an official from the State Environmental Protection Administration, suggested that a fund be created to ensure compensation for damages is promptly paid.


Han Guangming and Ji Yuanjun from the MSA of Nantong, a port city in Jiangsu Province, said specific legislation in respect to compensation for ship oil pollution damage should be drawn up as soon as possible.


In November 1969, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, the first of its kind in the world, was adopted in Brussels. China ratified the convention and became a member state. China is also a member of a second convention developed in 1992, which requires that the owners of the culprit ship compensate the victims of oil pollution.


More than 200 million tons of oil are transported each year in China.


The Shanghai Maritime University reports that between 1973 and 2000, there were 29 serious accidents involving oil tanker spills. Seven involved foreign tankers, which paid an average of 8.3 million yuan (US$998,000) in compensation.


However, of the 22 spills involving Chinese tankers, payment was made in just nine cases. Each paid an average of only 1.5 million yuan (US$184,000).


(China Daily July 6, 2004)

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