Hebei Spirit officers bailed
Two ship officers jailed by a South Korean court for their part in that country’s worst oil spill have been bailed by the Seoul Supreme Court, Lloyd’s List reported Thursday.
Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan were in charge of the anchored oil tanker Hebei Spirit when a barge collided with the tanker in rough seas Dec. 7, 2007. The officers have been held since the incident and though exonerated by a South Korean court in summer 2008, were found guilty by an appeals court in December. The case has garnered the attention of the worldwide shipping industry, with representatives from Intertanko, the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and transport worker labor unions blasting the appeals decision.
Those groups have also alleged that Chawla and Chetan were made scapegoats for the country’s worst environmental disaster — roughly one-third the amount of oil was spilled as in the Exxon Valdez incident — and that they were given harsh penalties as a way to alleviate the pressure on Samsung, the owner of the crane barge that collided with the Hebei Spirit.
On Wednesday, Intertanko, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), ship owners' managers' associations Intercargo, and the International Maritime Employers' Committee announced they would be staging a rally in front of the South Korean embassy in London Jan. 23 to protest the decision.
The officers will not yet be allowed to leave South Korea with the Supreme Court’s permission and in the meantime will instead be released to a Seoul hotel, Lloyd’s List reported.