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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Pakistan fines oil tanker owners

By Paul Anderson
BBC correspondent in Karachi

Pakistani workers use tractors to scrape oil off a beach after the Tasman Spirit ran aground
The oil spill threatens a delicate eco-system, say environmentalists
The authorities in Karachi say they will impose a fine of nearly $200,000 on the Greek owners of an oil tanker that ran aground off the southern Pakistani port three weeks ago.

Environment experts estimate about 10,000 tonnes of oil has spilled from Tasman Spirit, which is threatening to break up and block shipping lanes.

Another 20,000 tonnes of a cargo of nearly 70,000 tonnes of oil has been safely removed from vessel.

Chairman of the Karachi Port Trust, Ahmed Hayat, said the owners of the Tasman Spirit would be fined just under $200,000 for polluting the sea.

He said all other salvage and drainage expenses would be paid by the shipping company and its insurers.

The tanker went aground in heavy monsoon rain nearly three weeks ago.

It lies half-submerged, about a kilometre from Karachi's shores, with about 40,000 tonnes of oil still on board. That is equivalent to the amount spilled off Alaska by the Exxon Valdez 14 years ago.

Drifting wreckage

But the trust says the oil has stopped spilling from the Tasman Spirit and believe the threat of further leaks has now passed.

It is more worried about parts of the vessel drifting into Karachi's busy shipping channel if or when the tanker breaks up even more.

MAJOR TANKER SPILLS
The Braer
1978 Amoco Cadiz Brittany - 220,000 tonnes
1979 Atlantic Empress Tobago - 160,000 tonnes
1967 Torrey Canyon UK - 119,000 tonnes
1983 Braer Shetland Isles - 85,000 tonnes
1996 Sea Empress Wales - 72,000 tonnes
2002 Prestige North-west Spain - 42,000 tonnes
1989 Exxon Valdez Alaska - 38,800 tonnes

The ship snapped in half two days ago and is currently held together by piping.

Environmental specialists are warning of severe consequences for Karachi's marine life and eco-system, including rare turtles and rich breeding grounds for fish and crabs in the mangrove forests.

Health officials are also warning people with asthma or other respiratory problems to wear masks and protective glasses to avoid the effects of the acrid fumes still hanging in the air around Karachi's beaches.

The authorities are also warning people not to scoop up toxic oil from the beaches or touch it with their bare hands.

Many tried to do this days ago when the oil lay thicker on the sand.




SEE ALSO:
Disaster on Karachi's coastline
15 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Karachi oil tanker breaks up
14 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Oil 'emergency' off Karachi coast
13 Aug 03  |  South Asia
G8 urges tighter tanker controls
27 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature
Comparing the worst oil spills
19 Nov 02  |  Europe


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