Outrage over tanker officersÆ jail terms
Managers of the Hebei Spirit, involved in a massive oil spill off the coast of Korea last December, and various trade organizations are expressing outrage over the jailing Wednesday of the tanker's master and chief officer.
“Today’s decision by the Korean Appeal Court to find guilty the master and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit, an anchored VLCC which was struck by a Samsung crane barge, will surely go down as one of the most disgraceful examples of a miscarriage of justice in a ‘supposedly’ advanced nation state,” said a statement by Bob Bishop, chief executive officer of V.Ships, manager of the vessel. He called treatment of the tanker’s Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer, Syam Chetan — sentenced to prison terms and led from the court in handcuffs — “a disgrace and insult to the whole shipping industry.”
The sentences are “a blemish on shipping worldwide and on Korea’s Maritime Authorities in particular,” said the Hong Kong Shipowners Association. It said it “joins the many independent and international associations in protesting at the judgment and treatment of the officers of the Hebei Spirit.“
The association added that the decision of the Appellate Division of the Daejeon District Court “dealt a grievous blow to seafarers around the world. Already faced with excessive security regulations, lack of shore leave when in ports — what incentive is there for seafarers and cadets to pursue a career in shipping?”
In an open letter to Korea President Lee Myung-bak, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), said both the captain and chief officer were acquitted in the Daesan Court of the First Instance in June this year of all charges of criminal negligence.
“We therefore urge the Daejon Court of Appeal to carefully consider all of the evidence, and in particular the judgment of the Daesan Court of First Instance, and not to rely solely on these KMST (Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal) decisions when reaching its decision.
“It would be highly regrettable if the outcome of these proceedings were to prove detrimental to Korea’s international reputation and to its status as a tanker shipping nation, to its shipyards which rely on business from international tanker owners and to its refining and chemicals industry whose oil is delivered by the international tanker fleet,” INTERTANKO said.