Failure to respondThe oil spill in Taean Harbor might go down in history as the country’s worst-ever man-made disaster. It seems that no progress has been made since the 1996 “Sea Prince” incident, which contaminated 230 kilometers (143 miles) of coastal area from Yeosu to Pohang.
First of all, we suspect authorities tackled the accident in a loafing and idle manner. In this accident, the work to stop the spread of oil was comparatively easy, as the hole in the hull was above the surface. However, almost 48 hours was spent repairing the breach.
While high waves were a factor, the first phase of the cleanup did not go well. This has made the amount of oil dumped into the sea more than double the Sea Prince incident ― 10,000 kiloliters (2.6 million gallons).
Originally, authorities said that the accident occurred 8 kilometers away from the coastline and that the oil spill might reach the coastline 24 to 36 hours later, as winter’s low temperature solidified the oil. However, it took just a few hours for the line of oil to reach the coast, which it did at 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2007. The tidal flat was completely covered with oil during high tide.
In addition, steps to prevent the oil spill from spreading held up a mirror to the way the government conducts its business. Many criticisms were leveled at the time of the Sea Prince case, and the importance of establishing a policy for preventing coastal damage during future spills was addressed. However, it has proved to be in vain.
During the night of the 7th and dawn of the 8th, villagers found the oil line in the tidal flat and called for prevention devices, such as an absorber. However it was not dispatched to them. On the morning of the 8th, the government remained idle, even as they watched floating lumps of oil arrive at the coast.
Maritime oil spills are serious disasters, and the ecosystem cannot be restored if the first phase of containment fails.
The sea area affected by the Sea Prince incident is still suffering from the aftermath 10 years later. Remnants of oil remain here and there in the sea, threatening the natural ecosystem.
Against this backdrop, we call for the government to re-examine its marine oil spill cleanup system, in which it has invested since 2005, and make policy efforts to ensure that efficient cleanup and containment will be in place if future incidents occur.
Needless to say, a thorough investigation into the accident should be conducted to clarify the root causes of the accident and find out who is responsible.