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Hebei Spirit Two freed on bail

Seoul: South Korea's Supreme Court Thursday ordered a retrial for the Indian captain and chief officer of a Hong Kong supertanker jailed over the country's worst oil spill, AFP reports.

The court also ordered a retrial for Korean seamen handed jail terms over the accident.

International shipping groups say the tanker crew were blameless and have mounted a campaign to have their convictions quashed. Indian seafarers have staged protests on their behalf.

The spill happened when a Samsung Heavy Industries barge carrying a construction crane broke free after a cable linking it to one of two tugs snapped in rough seas in December 2007.

The barge rammed the anchored 147,000-ton supertanker. The ship was holed in three places and 10,900 tons of crude oil was spilled, coating miles of beaches.

A lower court had cleared the tanker crew of blame.

An appeal court last December agreed that Samsung Heavy Industries was mainly to blame and confirmed prison terms passed by the lower court on the Korean tugboat skippers.

However, it also ruled that the tanker crew chiefs failed to act promptly to minimise the spillage. Captain Jasprit Chawla was jailed for 18 months and chief officer Syam Chetan for eight months.

The pair were released on bail pending the supreme court ruling.

The supreme court ruled Thursday that those involved failed to prevent pollution but questioned some of the other findings by the appeal court and the sentences imposed.  [23/04/09]


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