Sinopec sets up HK$10m pellet fund

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:20pm

Petroleum giant Sinopec is setting aside at least HK$10 million to help pay for the clean-up of plastic pellets washed ashore on beaches and at fish farms since Severe Typhoon Vicente more than two weeks ago.

Sinopec senior officials said yesterday the company was concerned that the incident, caused when six containers fell from a ship during the storm, 'had affected the Hong Kong environment and brought distress and inconvenience to the public'.

They also expressed sympathy for fish farmers but sidestepped questions about compensation. They said it was too early to discuss liability, which had to be determined by a government investigation.

Sinopec promised full co-operation with the government but said that as it had suffered losses it also was a victim.

Sinopec news spokesman Lu Dapeng said the priority was to clean up the beaches and locate and salvage the missing sixth container. He said the fund would help environment groups buy cleaning equipment and recruit extra staff for cleaning.

Yesterday 120 Sinopec employees volunteered to help clean up beaches. 'If needed, it is possible extra money will be injected into the fund,' Lu said. 'Sinopec will honour its social responsibilities.'

Green groups have blamed Sinopec for what they call an environmental disaster. Green Sense has estimated the clean-up could cost as much as HK$200 million and has asked Sinopec to foot the bill.

The Yong Xin Jie 1 freighter belonging to China Shipping Container Lines lost seven containers in waters off Lamma Island when Vicente, the worst typhoon to hit Hong Kong in 13 years, struck. Six contained 150 tonnes of plastic pellets, while the seventh had glass bottles. Sinopec Chemical Commercial Holdings vice-president Zhang Guoming said the pellets were non-toxic and not dangerous.

Zhang also denied any cover-up or delay in making the information public. He said the company had still not received detailed reports from the shipping agency and the carrier.

The government, which has been accused of not keeping the public informed about the spill, said it had acted immediately after receiving complaints on July 24 and 26.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who returned yesterday after a brief holiday overseas, said attention should be paid to whether fish farmers needed government help.

Meanwhile, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing and Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok joined 30 volunteers from the disciplined services to help clean up at Shek Pai Wan on Lamma Island yesterday.