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IP/07/1932

Brussels, 14 December 2007

European Commission and United Nations to deploy a joint expert team to South Korea following oil spill

A team of marine pollution and civil protection assessment experts are being deployed to South Korea following a request made by the country to the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) on 12 December. Around 10,500 tonnes of crude oil were spilt some eight kilometres off Malipo in the Taean district, off Korea's west coast. The joint expert team, led by the United Nations, will be composed of MIC experts, United Nations officials and a representative from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). South Korea has also requested material assistance and equipment.

"South Korea may be facing one of the worst pollution disasters in its history. In a world where environmental tragedies have potentially global consequences, it is encouraging to see nations working together to mitigate the effects of disasters through mutual sharing of know-how and resources. Our deployment of a joint team with the UN is an excellent illustration of that," said Stavros Dimas, Commissioner responsible for Environment and Civil Protection.

Expertise and equipment

The expert team is expected to complement the Korean authorities' efforts by providing advice on managing the emergency, removing the remaining oil and limiting its spread. They will also offer advice on long-term recovery for the eco-system in the area.

The MIC is also handling a request to provide rock and sand-cleaning machines together with staff and other equipment that may be necessary in the light of the findings of the UN-EU joint assessment team. The team left for Korea on the morning of 14 December.

This request was also sent to the UN's Environmental Programme (UNEP) and Humanitarian aid (OCHA) offices.

Background

The accident occurred on 7 December, when a crane-carrying barge broke free from a tugboat. The barge slammed into the Hong Kong-registered "Hebei Spirit", a single-hulled tanker, piercing it in three places. Neither ship was in danger of sinking and no casualties were reported, but oil from the leaking vessel reached beaches the following day. Waves of crude oil washed ashore, turning seagulls black and threatening fish farms.

For more information on EU civil protection and marine pollution –

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/civil/index.htm


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