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Strong protests from shipping world at unfair detention of seafarers in Korea

Strong protests from shipping world at unfair detention of seafarers in Korea

London: A strong statement in support of the Hebei Spirit officers being held in Korea was made yesterday by the Round Table of international shipping associations, the ITF, the International Group of P&I Clubs and the Hong Kong Shipowmners' Association. It has been sent to the press and media as well as to the Korean Ambassador in London, the Indian Ambassador in Seoul, and Korea's Permanent Representative at the IMO.
 The statement issues a vigorous joint protest at the continuing unjust and unreasonable detention of two merchant ships' officers from the tanker Hebei Spirit , who were recently acquitted by a South Korean court as being innocent of all charges of violating the nation's ocean pollution law following last year's oil spill when a floating crane collided with the Hebei Spirit.
"We - the Round Table of international shipping associations (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Shipping Federation (ISF), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the International Group of P&I Clubs (IG), and the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association - wish to convey to the government and authorities of the Republic of Korea our surprise, disappointment and great concern at the news that Korea's courts have determined to continue to detain the ship's officers, despite their acquittal, for possibly as long a year pending further hearings. Such measures appear to be unjustified, unreasonable and in contravention of the men's rights. We strongly believe that they should be permitted to leave the country," the group said in a statement.
 "We remind those responsible for the continued detention of Captain Jasprit Chalwa and Chief Officer Syam Chetan, that the trial determined that another vessel which had been towing the floating crane which struck the anchored tanker was wholly responsible for the incident. Despite this finding they have continued to be detained, notwithstanding their own and their employers' assurance that, should a further trial take place, they would attend it.
 "The two officers have been detained in Korea since 7 December and we believe from recent experience in similar cases that such continued unjust detention may well affect the physical and mental health of the two men. This could be avoided by permitting them to return home now to their families until such time as they are needed to assist any further investigation in Korea."
The group then warned that they "cannot and will not support the criminalisation of seafarers, nor unjust, unreasonable and unfair treatment that is contrary to the principles agreed to worldwide in the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident.
"We appeal to the Government of the Republic of Korea to take the necessary action to ensure that the seafarers are immediately permitted to return to their homes," the group concluded. [23/7/08]

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