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HKSOA condemns Hebei Spirit appeal verdict

HKSOA condemns Hebei Spirit appeal verdict

Seoul: The Hong Kong Shipowners' Association has added its voice to the various independent and international associations protesting the judgment and treatment of the officers of the Hebei Spirit. Captain Jasprit Chawla (pictured right) and Chief Officer Syam Chetan (pictured left), were found guilty of criminal negligence for the Hebei Spirit oil spill and sentenced to 1.5 years and eight months imprisonment respectively by a South Korean court. The two were also fined 20m Korean Won ($14,000) and 10m Korean Won ($7,000) respectively.

In a statement to the press, the association said: "The Judgment of the Appellate Division of the Daejeon District Court announced yesterday (10 December) in Korea 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?

 To be handcuffed and led out of court like common criminals; with the prospect of months in a jail with real criminals, after having already been detained in Korea for over 12 months - despite being found innocent some 6 months ago - is outrageous.  

The jailing of the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit is a travesty of justice as previous evidence and facts have shown, the incident was an accident. An accident caused by the breaking of one of the tow wires from the lead tug, as it was crossing the bow of the Hebei Spirit, an error in international seamanship from the start.  
Thereafter, the accident proceeded with an unfortunate spillage of oil which caused considerable damage and hardship for the innocent, working people in that part of Korea, which is extremely regrettable.  However, there was no criminal act involved (at any time) by the crew of the Hebei Spirit who laboured in the dark, under extremely dangerous conditions to minimize the oil flow into the sea.
The ever increasing criminalization by nations from Korea to the USA, for seafarers involved in accidents - not criminal acts - must stop.  This latest act of criminalization by the Korean courts has been denounced by nearly all international independent maritime associations and the Hong Kong Shipowners Association joins the expressions of protest already made in public statements from Intertanko (representing over 80percent of the world's tanker owners), the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) and Inter Manager (representing ship managers from all over the world)."  [11/12/08]