Oil spills pose threat to oceans

By Wang Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-12 16:18
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Beijing - Oil spills are posing an increasing threat to China's marine environment as the country's energy demand grows, a leading environmental think tank warned on Thursday.

A report released by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development said the volume of China's oil transported by sea now ranked third in the world following the United States and Japan, and its oil handling capacity is growing by more than 10 million tons every year, making China's oceans a potential site for marine incidents and oil spills.

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The expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration is also increasing the risk, the report warned.

It said from 1973 to 2006, about 2,635 oil spills happened at sea in China, with more than 37,000 tons of oil spilled.

The Yangtze River, Pearl River, Taiwan Straits and Bohai Bay are the areas at greatest risk for oil spills, it said.

The Bohai Sea, which has the highest concentration of ports in China, is the national strategic petroleum reserve and has the largest offshore oilfield in the country. A total of 178 offshore oil platforms and 1,419 marine oil wells have been built in the sea, and their oil capacity is expected to reach 210 million tons by 2020, the report said.

Dalian, a coastal city on the Bohai Sea, suffered an oil pipeline explosion on July 16 due to an operational error, which spilled at least 3,000 tons of oil into the sea, according to the official figures.

At least 12 oil pollution accidents happened in the Bohai Sea in 2008, the report said.

A warning system and an emergency response mechanism should be put in place, the report suggested.

It proposed the establishment of an independent State Oceanic Committee to coordinate the management of marine affairs with other departments including the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) and the Ministry of Agriculture.

At present, five departments are involved in marine affairs in China, including the China Marine Surveillance under the SOA, the fishery administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, the Maritime Safety Administration under the Ministry of Transport, marine police of the Ministry of Public Security and the General Administration of Customs.

The committee should be made up of the leaders in the related departments to work out the country's ocean development strategy and strengthen cooperation among these departments, the report said.

Wang Dianchang, director of the policy and regulation department under the SOA, hailed the proposal as a major step to help the country "systematically and comprehensively manage its sea resources".

"A similar suggestion has been submitted to the government and is likely to be listed in the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015)," he told China Daily on Thursday.

Zhao Yinan contributed to this story.