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When an oil spill in Hong Kong waters from a ship that ran aground caused a mass fish kill

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“Several tons of crude oil poured from a Danish container ship which ran aground off Lamma Island yesterday,” reported the South China Morning Post on September 20, 1977. “Although Marine Department workers managed to control much of the spill, some slicks are threatening Picnic Bay fish farms.

“Five launch crews with emulsifiers and booms battled for hours to control the spill, which began about 1.15am after the Adrian Maersk ran aground near Boulder Point on Lamma Island.

“Rocks tore open two fuel tanks containing about 400 tons of crude bunker oil, but exactly how much escaped is not known. A large boom around the ship’s hull is containing the oil which was still leaking yesterday.

“Before the boom was positioned, oil drifted to Luk Chau Wan on the eastern side of Lamma Island, about a mile from the grounded ship. Oil slicks moving along the coast coated rocks before entering Picnic Bay.

The Danish container vessel ran aground, spilling oil into the waters around Lamma Island, Hong Kong, with Picnic Bay (above) among the places affected. Photo: SCMP

It was estimated that the oil spill cost HK$10 million. On January 7, 1978, the Post reported that “more than [HK]$5 million was paid yesterday to 138 fish farmers as compensation for the fish they lost due to oil that escaped from a Danish container ship when it ran aground on Lamma Island last September”.

“About 1,813 piculs [109.6 tonnes] of fish and 597,825 fish fry were killed by the spill.

Marine Department workers battle to clean up the oil spilling from Danish container ship Adrian Maersk. Photo: SCMP
Ho Tin-sang (left) from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department assesses the fish farmers’ losses in Picnic Bay, Lamma Island. Photo: SCMP

“Accompanied by the District Officer, Islands, Mr Victor Yung, representatives of the owners and underwriters of the Adrian Maersk went to Lamma to make the payments by cheque. It was based on assessments by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.

“Mr Yung said the compensation included a living allowance of [HK]$4,000 for each fish farmer and [HK]$75 for each submerged fish cage damaged in the oil spill.”

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