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Indian seafarer unions to protest Hebei Spirit detentions

Indian seafarer unions to protest Hebei Spirit detentions

Mumbai: The National Union of Seafarers of India and the Maritime union of India are to mount a joint demonstration at the Korean consulate in Mumbai today in support of the two Indian seafarers connected to the Hebei Spirit case. Despite being acquitted by a Korean court on charges of violating the ocean pollution law, Jasprit Chawla, master of the tanker Hebei Spirit, and chief officer Syam Chetan are still under detention in Korea pending an appeals process that could take up to a year.

The unions are of the opinion that this action is unjustified and violates the seamen's basic human rights. The demonstration carries the support of the Indian National Shipowners Association.

The 269,605dwt Hebei Spirit suffered a collision with a barge on December 7, spilling about 10,900 tonnes of crude oil, linked to fouling along the Yellow Sea coast.

The skippers of the Samsung Heavy Industries-owned barge and of one of the tugs have been arrested and charged with negligence and violating anti-pollution laws. The seamen have the right to pursue the matter in a high court under Korean law. The second tugboat captain was not detained but indicted on similar charges.

The VLCC's insurer Skuld has agreed to pay up to 12bn won ($12.5m) for clean-up costs.  [31/07/08]