Alaska to get nearly $850,000 to settle Selendang Ayu claims

SHIPWRECK: Vessel grounded on Unalaska in '04, spilled fuel oil.

April 27, 2009 

The owners and operators of a freighter that sank in the Aleutian Islands five years ago have agreed to pay the state of Alaska nearly $850,000 to settle oil spill, wreck removal and lost fish tax claims, state officials announced Monday.

The settlement with Selendang Ayu operator IMC Shipping Co. Pte. Ltd. (IMC) of Singapore and owner Ayu Navigation of Port Klang, Malaysia, brings the total amount of clean-up costs and fees to more than $112 million for the December 2004 sinking.

More than $800,000 in the Monday settlement was a penalty for the spill of an estimated 350,000 gallons of oil. The other money covers trespass damages, a beach monitoring fund and lost fish-tax claims.

"With the exception of the Exxon Valdez, the oil spill penalty collected today is the largest civil oil spill penalty ever recovered by the state of Alaska," acting Attorney General Richard Svobodny said in a statement.

The state settled all civil claims against Exxon for about $900 million in 1991.

Besides Monday's settlement the two companies have spent $100 million in spill cleanup and $2.5 million reimbursement costs to the state. The operator also was fined $9 million for a federal criminal penalty.

"This settlement sends a strong message to international shipping companies of the tremendous costs associated with marine casualties in our waters and the need for them to undertake immediate actions to improve shipping safety on the Great Circle Route which transits through the waters of the Aleutian Islands," Svobodny said.

The state is pursuing separate natural resource damage claims which are not covered in the settlement.

Attempts to reach representatives of the two companies Monday were not immediately successful.

The 738-foot Selendang Ayu ran aground Dec. 8, 2004, and broke in two on the north side of Unalaska Island. About 66,000 tons of soybeans were lost.

The freighter left Tacoma, Wash., on its way to China when it experienced mechanical problems. The vessel's engine was shut down as crew members attempted repairs. As the freighter drifted toward Unalaska Island, crewmen were unable to restart the engine. The ship grounded just off Spray Cape and broke apart.

During rescue operations, a rogue wave crashed into a Coast Guard helicopter lifting Selendang Ayu crew members from the freighter and the aircraft crashed. Six of the 10 freighter crew members were killed. The helicopter crew was rescued.

More than 1,600 birds and six sea otters were found dead after the spill.

Cleanup of the spill about 800 miles southwest of Anchorage was declared complete June 23, 2006.

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