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'Hebei Two' out of prison on bail

'Hebei Two' out of prison on bail

Seoul: The Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea has granted bail to the two seafarers entangled in the Hebei Spirit case and released then from prison. This announcement has led to the cancellation of a rally in support of Captain Jasprit Chawla (pictured right), and Chief Officer Syam Chetan (pictured left) by a number of maritime organisations, scheduled for Friday 23 January 2009 outside the South Korean embassy in London.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) writes, "The ICS and the International Shipping Federation (ISF), which lodged a letter of support for bail with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea at the end of last year, have greatly welcomed the Court's decision to grant bail, and release from prison, two merchant foreign ship's officers. The crew members of the oil tanker 'Hebei Spirit' were sentenced to imprisonment, in December, by a lower court, for their alleged contribution to a major oil spill in late 2007.

This legal decision has fuelled the shipping industry's deep concern about the criminalization of seafarers who engage in the transportation of around 90% of world trade.
While enjoying good co-operation from the Korean maritime administration and the Korea Shipowners' Association, ICS and ISF fully appreciate the independence of the Korean judiciary from the government.  Based on the facts of the case, ICS and ISF are hopeful that the Supreme Court will now make the correct decision when it rules on the seafarers' appeal, in order that they are spared from further imprisonment and allowed to return to their families in India.  
ICS/ISF also acknowledge that due process, under Korean law, is being followed, and that every effort is being made by the Korean authorities to adhere to the international principles enshrined in the IMO/ILO Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident.  The decision to release the ship's officers from prison is fully consistent with these Guidelines, adopted in 2006, which ICS and ISF helped to negotiate with governments at IMO and ILO.   

With the officers now released on bail, ICS and ISF look forward to a similarly positive outcome of the hearing of the appeal before the Supreme Court."  [15/01/09]