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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 07:27 GMT
Storm lashes oil spill ship
A helicopter carries logs away from the Jody F Millennium
The crew of the Jody F Millennium are still on board
Officials are warning that a Korean log ship that ran aground off the coast of New Zealand last week could break up as it is pummelled by a severe storm.

An oil-soaked Red Bill Gull receives a check up
New Zealand's birds are receiving treatment
The log carrier, Jody F Millennium, became stranded on 6 February in heavy seas soon after leaving the nearby North Island port of Gisborne.

A major clean-up operation has already been hampered by the storm, and New Zealand's Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) said the break-up of the ship would have serious environmental consequences.

As forecasters predict that the storm - which has already brought gale force winds and high seas to the shore - will intensify, salvage operators must decide whether to risk refloating the ship or riding out the storm.

Dangerous possibility

A spokesman for the MSA, Russell Kilvington, said the disintegration of the cargo ship was an unlikely but alarming prospect.

"If it did, the consequences will be pretty severe and we could be talking about the possible evacuation of people because oil will get up in the air and that's very dangerous to eyes and lungs," he said.

Among those at risk would be a team of 19 Korean sailors who have decided to remain on the vessel.

About half of the more than 700 tonnes of fuel on board the ship has not been pumped off although the poor weather has interrupted the operation.

Clean-up

When the ship ran aground last week some 25-40 tonnes of thick black oil drifted 400 metres to shore, polluting nearby rivers, beaches and coastline and sending noxious fumes over dozens of houses.

But fears of a major environmental disaster then abated when the oil stopped leaking and few birds appeared to have suffered lasting injury.

The clean-up operation has so far cost $210,000.

Transport Minister Mark Gosche said that the government was now considering compulsory insurance for all ships arriving in New Zealand.

"I want to ensure all ships that enter New Zealand ports can pay for any oil pollution damage they cause," he said.

See also:

10 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
New Zealand tackles oil spill
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Spotlight on oil transport risks
22 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Oil spill threatens Thai resort
07 Aug 01 | Middle East
Gulf oil spill threatens Saudi Arabia
25 May 01 | Americas
New oil slick in Brazil
03 May 01 | Americas
Galapagos tanker captain jailed
05 Apr 01 | Europe
Danish oil spill: 3,000 birds die
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