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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tanker Owner to Pay $221M For Oil Spill

TOKYO -- The owner of a Russian tanker that caused a huge oil spill off Japan's western coast in 1997 has agreed to pay 26.1 billion yen ($221 million) to the government for damages, officials said Friday.

The tanker Nakhodka spilled at least 4.9 million liters of oil when it split apart on Jan. 2, 1997, damaging more than 800 kilometers of Japan's western coastline.

Nakhodka's owner, Prisco Traffic Co., helped by the London-based International Oil Pollution Fund, has agreed to pay 20.05 billion yen ($170 million) to the Fukui prefecture, whose coastline was the most affected by the spill, Transport Ministry official Toshihiro Yamakoshi said.

The company and the fund, which was set up by 80 countries to help pay compensation for oil spills, will pay the remaining 6.05 billion yen ($51.27 million) to the central government, he added.

The Japanese government filed a lawsuit against Prisco Traffic with the Tokyo District Court in 1999, demanding compensation for the oil spill. Friday's settlement followed a series of negotiations between the two sides in line with the court's recommendations, Yamakoshi said.

A government investigation after the spill concluded that the tanker's aging, rusting hull with shoddy welding was the likely cause of the accident.

Thousands of fishermen, firefighters and volunteers joined the coast guard's efforts to clean up the spill in Fukui. Five volunteers died during the operation.

Fukui is about 323 kilometers west of Tokyo.