Norway police charge ship captain after fuel spill

OSLO, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Norwegian police on Monday charged the Chinese captain of a dry bulk vessel for not warning the coastal authorities that his ship was in danger during a storm last week that led to one of Norway's biggest fuel spills.

The Chinese-owned "Full City" ship has remained grounded near Langesund since early Friday morning, when it was blown off course during a heavy storm and started leaking fuel.

The spill has affected a 150-kilometre (93 mile) stretch of coastline in southern Norway and occurred near a bird sanctuary and a popular summer resort about 170 km south-west of Oslo.

"The captain of the vessel has been charged for not reporting that his ship was in a dangerous situation," police attorney Siri Karlsen told a news conference. The charge carries a maximum two-year jail sentence, Norway's TV2 television said.

The clean up efforts have involved some 25 ships helping to contain the fuel, which has now stopped leaking from the vessel's hull. Onshore workers are also working to clear the syrupy dark fuel from the mostly rocky coastline.

"The situation is very sad both for the residents and the entire environment affected by the spill," said Helga Pedersen, Norway's fisheries and coastal affairs minister.

Sveinung Nedregotten, a spokesman for the Norwegian coastal administration, said wind and waves were pushing the spill southwest along Norway's coast, although the damage to areas further away from the accident was smaller.

It was not yet clear how much of the vessel's 1,120 tonnes of fuel had leaked out. The ship is operated by Hong Kong-based Cosco


. Its 23-strong crew are all Chinese nationals.

"This is one of Norway's worst spills, particularly because it happened in this pristine area near bird sanctuaries," Nedregotten said.

"If the weather stays like this, the ship should be quite stable ... allowing us to empty all its fuel." (Editing by Jon Hemming)