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(LEAD) Sea oil line rupture causes contamination off Ulsan

2013/11/10 11:02

ULSAN, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- An oil line transferring crude from a tanker to shore ruptured Sunday causing contamination off the coast of Ulsan.

The Ulsan Coast Guard said the rupture took place at 4:45 a.m. when the C. Eternity, a 160,000-ton Panama-registered tanker, was transferring oil to a pipeline buoy.

"There was a small crack in the 200-meter-long, 61-centimeter-wide oil line between the ship and the pipeline buoy that caused some crude to leak into the sea," an officer on site said. He said maritime authorities in the industrial city, located 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, were notified of the incident by the tanker crew, who reported oil in the water.

The buoy is owned by SK Energy Co. and has pumps that can help send oil from a ship to the nearby Onsan Industrial Complex in the southern part of Ulsan. The company said that the oil line is very flexible and cannot be damaged by high waves. It added if a ship hit the line the resulting spill would be considerable. The buoy has a diameter of 12.5 meters, stands 4.3 meters tall and is located some four kilometers from shore. This system is needed because Ulsan does not have the port infrastructure to allow large tankers to come alongside a pier to transfer oil.

The Coast Guard has called for nine water surface cleaning boats to deal with the spill and is currently mobilizing divers to figure out what exactly caused the accident. It said at the time of the spill there were 3-4 meter waves and a high-wave alert was issued off the country's southeastern coast.

It is also trying to discover exactly how much oil has leaked into the sea, although preliminary estimates indicate a relatively small amount. A spill some 700 meters long, 30-40 centimeters thick has been detected a few kilometers away from the leak.

Authorities, meanwhile, said that the tanker arrived at its station near the buoy at 10:20 p.m. Saturday and had been transferring oil. All operations have been halted to prevent further leaks, authorities said.