The government will provide about 2 billion yen in subsidies to local governments in areas affected by oil spilled from the wrecked Russian tanker Nakhodka, Transport Minister Makoto Koga said Feb. 25.

After the tanker accident in January, oil spills have polluted beaches and damaged marine resources along a vast stretch of the Sea of Japan coast. The government estimates that the damage amounts to 17.8 billion yen.

Transport Ministry officials said the overall cost of the oil cleanup at the local level is estimated at about 7 billion yen. Roughly 4 billion yen has already been spent for cleanup work, such as chartering vessels and purchasing oil fences. The government will reimburse half of the 4 billion yen in subsidies from reserve funds, the officials said. The subsidies do not include costs for operating disaster relief headquarters in each area or tents and other outlays for volunteers.

Because Ishikawa Prefecture was the most heavily affected by the spills, half of the total subsidies will go there, according to the ministry officials. The remainder will be allocated to local governments through special local tax grants, Koga said.

The government also announced it will loan money for necessary costs to the Maritime Disaster Prevention Center, a 40-member government-affiliated salvaging agency, which is currently conducting overall cleanup work such as extracting oil from the grounded bow section of the tanker. Although the center will request that the Russian ship owner and its insurer pay for the costs, which will be nearly 10 billion yen, the government will loan the necessary amount until the money is paid by those parties, the minister said.

Koga also said a panel will be set up within the Transport Ministry’s Council for Transport Technology to study ways to prepare for such major oil accidents. The panel will be composed of 23 experts and scholars on oil accidents and the environment.

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