• Kyodo

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An international maritime fund will pay 26.1 billion yen in damages to victims of an oil spill that contaminated large stretches of the Sea of Japan coast in 1997.

The London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds worked out the sum after assessing compensation claims filed by tourism and fisheries industries and local authorities in 10 prefectures affected by the spill, sources said Friday.

The fund will pay the money jointly with a British insurance group contracted with Russian marine transport company Prisco Traffic. Prisco owns the ship that caused the oil spill on Jan. 2, 1997.

The fund has already made an advance payment covering 80 percent of the approved amount to the industries and local governments. It figured the total amount of damages would exceed its compensation ceiling of 23.1 billion yen.

The fund is expected to pay the remaining 20 percent this summer. Sources say the fund’s executive board approved the payment formula at a meeting in London in May.

Up to 6,200 kiloliters of fuel oil washed up in coastal areas of 10 prefectures after the 13,157-ton Nakhodka broke up in the Sea of Japan off Shimane Prefecture.

It was carrying 20,000 kiloliters of fuel oil.

The Japanese government is expected to accept the fund’s assessment of the costs for constructing a temporary causeway in Mikuni, Fukui Prefecture. The causeway was built to help collect oil from the ship’s bow. The fund assessed the cost at about 2 billion yen, 40 percent less than the government’s initial demand, the sources said.

The bow, which had broken away from the main hull, floated east and went aground five days later off Mikuni. The 2,800 kiloliters of oil it was carrying spilled from the wreckage.

A separate damages suit was filed by tourism and fisheries industries and 10 prefectures, as well as volunteer organizations that shouldered the costs of helping to remove the spilled oil. Prisco Traffic and the insurance group, however, denied liability for the accident, blaming stormy weather.

The 10 prefectures and the fishery and tourism industries had demanded a total of about 35 billion yen from the fund.

Local governments affected by the spill have demanded that Prisco Traffic, the fund and the insurance group pay the costs of cleaning the coast and for chemical treatment of the recovered oil. Tourism-related businesses in four of the 10 prefectures also asked for compensation to recover part of their losses from the decline in tourism.

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