The country’s top court plans to improve rules and regulations to better handle rising disputes over marine pollution, a senior judge has said.
The remarks were made while ConocoPhillips China, the operator of two leaking oil platforms in northern China’s Bohai Bay, faces compensation demands for the oil spills.
Existing laws and regulations on pollution cannot keep pace with the rapidly developing marine economy, experts said. The maximum fine for marine pollution is just 200,000 yuan ($31,000).
Liu Guixiang, president of the No 4 Civil Court under the Supreme People’s Court, said that China’s liability fund for marine pollution is currently only eligible for tanker spills.
Liu said there has been a noticeable increase in recent years in the number of applications requiring the establishment of other such liability funds, but there is still a lack of institutional support to set them up.
"However we’ll look into the issue and improve the compensation liability system based on past experience to reinforce the judicial protection of the marine environment," he said.
Low penalties and lack of comprehensive supervision over the marine environment in China give companies like ConocoPhillips an excuse to delay environmental protection, said an official, who requested anonymity, from the North China Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).
ConocoPhillips China has not completed the cleanup following the first spill detected on June 4, and more spills have been subsequently detected.
Fresh oil seepage can still be seen near the Penglai 19-3 oilfield and ConocoPhillips China admitted on Sunday that nine additional leaks near Platform C have appeared, with about two liters of "materials" seeping out every day.
The leak polluted about 4,240 square kilometers at its peak, equal to the area of Qing-hai Lake, the largest lake in China, according to the SOA.