15-year anniversary and closure of the Hebei Spirit incident
Photo credit: KOMOS
Fifteen years ago, on 7 December 2007, the Hong Kong-registered tanker Hebei Spirit (146 848 GT) was struck by a crane barge while at anchor about five nautical miles off Taean on the west coast of the Republic of Korea.
As reported to the IOPC Funds governing bodies in October 2022, all outstanding claims arising from the Hebei Spirit incident have been settled, all corresponding legal actions have been withdrawn and the incident is now considered closed by the IOPC Funds.
At the time of the incident, the tanker was almost fully laden with around 209 000 tonnes of four different crude oils and, as a result of the collision, a total of 10 900 tonnes of oil escaped into the sea, polluting to varying degrees the west coast of the Republic of Korea and leading to over 128 000 claims for compensation being submitted.
This became one of the most significant pollution incidents suffered by the Republic of Korea and one of the largest oil spills in the history of the IOPC Funds. A total of KRW 321.6 billion was paid to claimants under the 1992 Civil Liability and Fund Conventions by the ship’s insurer, the Skuld P&I Club, and the 1992 Fund.
Following a major incident, the 1992 Fund’s practice is to hold a meeting or workshop with all those involved in the handling of the incident to discuss what lessons could be learned, so as to enable the 1992 Fund to deal with claims more efficiently in the future.
Such workshop was held to review the handling of claims resulting from the Hebei Spirit incident with the Skuld Club and the Government of Republic of Korea, in Seoul, in June 2022. The outcome of the discussions during the meeting, as well as a summary of the lessons learned from the incident, were reported to the October 2022 meeting of the IOPC Funds’ governing bodies in document IOPC/OCT22/4/3.
The Director took the opportunity at the workshop to acknowledge the excellent collaboration between the Government of the Republic of Korea, the Skuld Club and the IOPC Funds and the outstanding work of the Claims Handling Office and the experts involved in bringing this incident to a successful conclusion.
Now that the incident is closed, as decided by the 1992 Fund Administrative Council at its October 2022 session, a reimbursement will be made of £7.3 million to contributors to the Hebei Spirit Major Claims Fund by 1 March 2023.
A full case study of the incident can be found under the incident section.