Details of the long-delayed report of the oil spill at Bohai Sea were at last released on Tuesday by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA). But all the blame has been placed on Chinese oil giant CNOOC's US partner, ConocoPhillips.
We cannot help but wonder: Is the SOA a serious watchdog that exists to prevent bigger incidents from happening, or a loving parent who is over-protective of his own child?
After CNOOC's ambivalent answer that set the date of the spill to "earlier or mid-June," the SOA finally gave us an exact date: June 4.
But it is not acceptable that the SOA, which had learned about the incident in early June, hold the news until a month later.
If there had not been a microblog tip-off on June 21 and media reports after that, we are not sure whether the SOA would hold a press briefing now or not.
The SOA should at least tell the public about the leak first and then keep it updated. An oil spill accident in the sea can do great harm to the environment and fishing industry. The nearest city, Penglai, is only 50 sea miles away.
It is shocking to hear the SOA revealing that the leak has degraded the quality of the water within 840 square kilometers of the oil platform to below the worst State level. Although CNOOC claimed to have cleaned up the leaked oil, the harm the leak might have done to the local area and the environment remains to be estimated.
In the statement on the SOA's official website, there is no mention of CNOOC at all. ConocoPhillips, which operates the oil platform, was held responsible for the leak, and was fined 200,000 yuan ($31,000).
That won't stop the public from demanding that CNOOC also takes responsibility for this accident.
UK oil giant BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April last year may serve as a lesson. Even though the accident was largely caused by Swiss company Transocean, BP's contractor company and the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, still BP agreed to pay $20 billion in compensation.
CNOOC should learn from BP. It is difficult to ask a company to shoulder voluntary responsibility. This is where the supervision department can step in.
As the guard to protect the State and the people's interests, the supervision department is in no position to be partial to enterprises that make mistakes, even if they are State-owned. Otherwise, it will encourage the companies to be more careless and be prone to more severe mistakes. The supervising authorities will also have their credibility jeopardized.