The Legal Response and Future Tasks regarding Oil-Spill Damage to Korea - Focusing on the Hebei Spirit oil-spill

한국의 해양유류오염피해에 대한 법적 대응과 과제 - HEBEI SPIRIT호 유류유출사고를 중심으로 -

  • 한상운 (한국환경정책.평가연구원)
  • Published : 2008.09.30


With petroleum being a major source of energy in Korea, the quantity of petroleum transported via ocean routes is on its way up due to increased consumption. Due to the increase, more than 300 cases of pollution caused by petroleum occur annually. Moreover, the number of oil-spill accidents is also on the rise. Causes of such accidents, not including the disposal of waste oil on purpose, turn out to be human error during navigation or defects in the vessels, showing that most accidents are caused by humans. Therefore, to prevent future oil spills, it is imperative that navigation efficiency be enhanced by improving the quality of navigators and replacing old vessels with newer ones. Nevertheless, such improvements cannot occur overnight, so long- and mid-term efforts should be made to achieve it institutionally. As large-scale oil-spill accidents can happen at anytime along the coastal waters of Korea, it is necessary to set-up institutional devices which go beyond the compensation limit of 92FC. The current special law regarding this issue has its limits in that it prescribes compensation be supplemented solely by national taxes. Therefore, the setting-up of a new 'national fund' is recommended for consideration rather than to subscribe to the '2003 Convention for the Supplementary Fund'. It is strongly suggested that a National fund be created from fees collected from oil companies based on the risks involved in oil transportation and according to the profiteers pay principle. In addition, a public fund should be created to handle general environmental damage, such as the large-scale destruction of the ecosystem, which is distinct from the economic damage that harms the local people. The posterior responses to the large-scale oil spill have always been unsatisfactory because of the symbolic nature of the disasters included in such accidents. Oil-spills can be prevented in advance, because they are caused by human beings. But once they occur, they inflict long-term damage to both human life and the natural ecosystem. Therefore, the best response to future oil-spills is to work to prevent them.