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Author Topic: Hebei Spirit's court decision  (Read 1136 times)
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Fred Vloo
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« on: December 10, 2008, 09:35:58 am »

A court Wednesday jailed the  Indian captain and chief officer of a Hong Kong supertanker after ruling they  were partly to blame for South Korea's worst oil spill, court officials said.
The appeal court, overturning a lower court ruling, found the Hebei  Spirit's owner and top officers partially responsible for the spillage on  December 7 last year which fouled miles of beaches.
Captain Jasprit Chawla was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 20  million won (14,000 dollars) while chief officer Syam Chetan was sentenced to  eight months and fined 10 million won.
The pair were immediately taken into custody. Their lawyers said they would  appeal to the supreme court.
The ship's owner, Hong Kong-registered Hebei Ocean Shipping, was fined 30  million won.
The ruling was likely to spark anger among international shipping operators  and seafarer unions, who insist the tanker crew were blameless. The lower court  in June had found them not guilty.
The accident happened when a barge carrying a construction crane broke free  after a cable to one of two tugs snapped in rough seas.  
The barge, owned by Samsung Heavy Industries, rammed the anchored  147,000-ton Hebei Spirit. It holed it in three places and spilt 10,900 tons of  crude oil.
The appeal court in the central city of Daejeon confirmed guilty verdicts  passed in June on the South Korean tugboat skippers but reduced their prison  terms.  
One was jailed for two years and six months, instead of three years  previously. The other was jailed for eight months compared to an original one  year.
The court confirmed a fine of 30 million won on Samsung Heavy Industries,  part of the country's biggest business group. It ordered the barge captain, who  had previously been exonerated, be jailed for 18 months.
Scores of marine farms and miles of beaches, notably in Taean county, about  110 kilometres (70 miles) southwest of Seoul, were smothered in oil by the  spillage.
About 100 residents affected by the slick clapped and shouted "Mansei"  (Hurray!) outside the appeal court.
We are satisfied with the verdict," one said.
A spokesman for ship manager V Ships called the ruling technically flawed.
All of the parties related to the Hebei Spirit are very disappointed and  find the reasons given for the decision technically flawed," he said in a  statement. "We are considering our options."
In a statement the court said the skipper and others on the tanker were  negligent in efforts to prevent the oil spill right after the accident.
Judge Bang Seung-Man said the skipper and his crew took three and half  hours to transfer the oil from the tanker to other vessels.
They also injected cooling gas into the holds to prevent an explosion but  this only increased the amount of oil spilt, he said.
The towing vessels share the greatest responsibility for the collision  itself, the judge said.
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), in  a statement Monday, had urged the appeal court not to be influenced by the  findings of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal.
It said the tribunal's findings that the tanker crew were partly to blame  were "technically flawed" and not in accordance with international guidelines.
Despite being cleared in June, Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan had  been banned from leaving South Korea, although they were not taken into custody  until Wednesday.
Eight world shipping organisations in July protested against "the  continuing unjust and unreasonable detention (in Korea)" of the pair and  appealed to the government to let them leave.
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Mike
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 11:01:41 am »

Hi Fred
Interesting reading and hardly justice.
I do not know the full details but surely the Captain of the tanker was correct in pumping cooling gas into the tanks 'first' to reduce the risk of an explosion otherwise there would have been an even bigger oil slick! not to mention loss of lives.
It was also not his fault his ship was hit by an uncontrollable barge in the first place.

Tug Masters do not go out of their way to part the towing wire on purpose either and I do not know what sea conditions was like at the time of the accident and assume the tow wire was in good condition.
Unless there was gross negligence proven by individuals this seems a miscarriage of justice and it is one thing to fine the companies but jailing the personnel involved does not seem Justice as we know it!
Regards
Mike :-?
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Mike

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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 08:03:46 pm »

Mike,
The Koreans want scapegoats, pure and simple. One court acquitted them, however they didn't like that verdict and so tried a second time.
When it comes to oil, the lack of justice never ceases to amaze, especially from countries which style themselves as 'Western' in outlook.
Remember the French reaction to the Erika and Spains' 2 year illegal imprisonment of the 70 year old Master of the Prestige.
Of course these same nations sit in bewilderment as to why they can't persuade today's generation to go to sea!
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