Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Indian unions (shipping and non-shipping) call for Korean boycott

Multiple unions unite in protest against Hebei 2 jail terms – as movement gains momentum with Indian port boycott of Korean shipping and products, especially Samsung.

The two largest Indian Unions today issued a statement showing growing support for a unified protest against the “Appeal” judgement which sent the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit to a Korean jail.


this is the state of the deck of the Hebei Spirit, awash with oil, shortly after the Samsung No 1 crane barge repeatedly smashed into the port side of the VLCC, breaching 3 tanks and causing structural damage to the deck of the tank.


The Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit are in a Korean jail, for not moving quickly enough in conditions shown in accompanying photo, to which a 5 degree starboard list was added (Korean wanted 10deg, but they weren't anywhere near the deck).


In an historic meeting today the Unions and ship owners Associations got together in an unique display of solidarity against the judgement of the South Korean Court which found Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan guilty. Both the seafarers were on board the ship "Hebei Spirit" which was at safe anchorage at South Korean waters, which was collided by a tug-towed crane barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries resulting in an oil spill.


Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan were detained since December, 2007 in South Korea. Despite being proved innocent on 23rd June, 2008 by the Court. The matter went into appeal. Justice was denied when the judgement, which was delivered on December 10th 2008, found Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan guilty and sentenced them for 18 months and 8 months respectively.


The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the Maritime Union of India (MUI), both seafarers Associations, have already approached more than two hundred thousand seafarers and their families to boycott Korean products especially Samsung. Today they were joined by the Transport & Dock Workers Union represented by Mr. S. R. Kulkarni, All India Railwaymen Federation represented by Mr. Umraomal Purohit, Aviation Industries Employees Guild represented by Mr. George Abraham. Mr. Mahendra Sharma of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and Shipowners Associations i.e. FOSMA, MASSA, INSA, CMMI, Nautical Institutes also attended the meeting. The following has been decided:


1. Indian Shipping fraternity will fight with all its might against the unfair judgement which was delivered against Capt. Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan in South Korea.


2. Demand for effective intervention by the Government of India through Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of External Affairs.


3. Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have also been approached.


4. Call for appeal to seafarers to boycott the Korean products especially Samsung has been renewed.


A massive Rally has been planned at 4.00 pm on Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008 at Azad Maidan, Opp. Mahanagar Palika, Mumbai. The seafarers and their family members and family members of Capt. Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan will also be present in the Rally. The demonstration is for justice and release of the two seafarers of the ship "Hebei Spirit" who are victims of criminilisation of seafarers.



Similar demonstrations have also been planned at Chennai and Delhi. This issue is no longer national but has become international. If the efforts do not give the required results then the agitation can further intensify which can affect transportation of Korean goods in India.


Abdulgani Y. Serang
General Secretary / Treasurer
National Union of Seafarers of India


S.S.Khan
General Secretary
The Maritime Union of India

Monday, 15 December 2008

Industry unites in protest

Please find Lloyd's List report below:



Condemnation of Korean Maritime Authorities from Intertanko, ITF, V Ships, HKSOA, Intermanager: (Please click the logos below:)











Hebei Spirit crew treated like common criminals

Please follow link below to check out conditions in Korea Daejeon jail - home of Master and C/O for 18/8 months respectively.


http://daejeon.corrections.go.kr/

To access, click 'English' at the right top corner and once the English page opens,click 'home'

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Outrage to follow as Master and C/O sentenced to jail terms

Please note judgement handed down in Korea this afternoon regarding Samsung No1 crane barge smashing (out of control) along the port side hull of the anchored Hebei Spirt, causing 3 holes in the fully laden oil tanks. Related parties said: Initially all we can say is: "all of the parties related to the Hebei Spirit are very disappointed of course and find the reasons given for the decision - like both of the KMST Reports - technically flawed and are considering our options"

Hebei Spirit Master
Reasons for judgement:
Engine work not done correctly
Master should have gone full astern to drag anchor
On charge re Oil Spill prevention
Guilty
Inert Gas increased spillage and should not have been done
Low explosive risk
3.5 hours was too long
Could have listed to 10 degrees which would have prevented oil spill
Jail Term: 1.5 years & W20m Fine

HS Chief Officer

Reasons for judgement:
Should have been more vigilant and called master by 0550 at latest
On charge re Oil Spill prevention
Guilty
Inert Gas increased spillage and should not have been done
Low explosive risk
3.5 hours was too long
Could have listed to 10 degrees which would have prevented oil spill

Jail Term: 8 months W12m Fine
Owner - Hebei Shipping Co Ltd - W30 million fine

Monday, 8 December 2008

Intertanko send Open Letter to President Lee Myung-bak


Intertanko has taken the unprecedented step of taking a very firm and positive stance in the case of the Hebei Two and shown their commitment and full support by taking a full page advertisement in the Korea Times, just one day before Korean judges hand down a judgement on the appeal (by the Prosecutor and Samsung) against the innocent judgement handed down by the Korean courts in June this year, for both the Master and C/O, as well as the owner of the Hebei Spirit - against all charges laid.

"
To: President Lee Myung-bak
President of the Republic of Korea

From INTERTANKO



We, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, have noted with considerable dismay the Second (Appeal) Decision of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) and its findings of fault on the part of the two ship’s officers of the “Hebei Spirit”; Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer, Syam Chetan.


As a responsible and accountable international shipping association, which represents over 80% of independent tanker owner interests worldwide, we first wish to offer all our sympathy to the people of Korea who were so badly affected by the spill of oil which resulted when the runaway Samsung crane barge struck the legitimately anchored tanker “Hebei Spirit”.


We are aware that both Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan were acquitted in the Daesan Court of the First Instance in June this year of all charges of criminal negligence. We are also aware that this Court Judgment is presently under appeal and understand that the Daesan Court of Appeal will be giving judgment as early as Wednesday 10 December.


We are further aware that the First (Inchon) KMST Decision has already been submitted in evidence in the Daesan Court of Appeal proceedings, and that it is likely that the Second (Appeal) KMST Decision will also be submitted in evidence in these proceedings. We are advised that Courts in Korea attach great weight to KMST Decisions. Noting this, and having considered in some detail the Second (Appeal) Decision of the KMST that is now before us as well as the First (Inchon) KMST Decision, we believe them both to be technically flawed and therefore that they draw unjust conclusions.


We wish also to express our concern that the KMST reports have not been produced in accordance with the internationally recognised IMO Interim Guidelines (MSC/Circ 1058) and IMO Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents. One of the cornerstones of this Code is the requirement to co-operate and consult with all interested parties before a final report is made.


We therefore urge the Daesan Court of Appeal to carefully consider all of the evidence, and in particular the judgment of the Daesan Court of First Instance, and not to rely solely on these KMST Decisions when reaching its decision. We also appeal to the Court to pay full respect to all its international treaty obligations to seafarers in rendering its decision. After it has made a careful and balanced review of all the evidence, we hope that the Court will reach a fair and just decision, not just in the interests of Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan, but also as a demonstration to seafarers trading to the Republic of Korea that they can expect the highest standards of fair treatment and justice.


It would be highly regrettable if the outcome of these proceedings were to prove detrimental to Korea’s international reputation and to its status as a tanker shipping nation, to its shipyards which rely on business from international tanker owners and to its refining and chemicals industry whose oil is delivered by the international tanker fleet.


With the greatest of respect,
INTERTANKO,
8th December 2008

"

.

ITF create website for Hebei Two

In support of the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit who have now been unable to leave South Korea for 12 months on December 7, the ITF have launched a dedicated web area: www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/hebeitwo.cfm to help the many unions looking for ways to help their fellow seafarers.


Although primarily intended to assist ITF unions as part of the wider campaign to back the two men, it is also very useful as a resource for, for example, contact details of Korean embassies etc., and detailed background on the incident itself.


The webpage calls for solidarity among the ITF’s 656 union members – in order to help secure the release of Hebei spirit officers



Captain Jasprit Chawla (right) and Chief Officer Syam Chetan (left).

The ITF is calling on affiliated unions to highlight the plight of two innocent officers, members of ITF Indian seafaring affiliate, who are detained in South Korea following an oil spill from their ship last year.

The ITF page says:
How you can help !


We are calling on ITF unions to draw the Korean authorities’ attention to the men’s case as soon as possible and before 9 December, the day before the judgement is handed down:

- Making appointments with Korean embassies and diplomatic representatives to meet, express concerns and present the model letter.

→ View your nearest South Korean embassy here
→ Download and view the model letter here

- Speaking informally to any Korean shipping or industrial contacts the union has, at the highest possible level, to express concern at these events

They are also calling on member unions to advise their planned activities in order for the ITF to help keep everyone aware (including the media) of such planned activities.

Trade Unions unite behind Hebei Two


The Indian Seafarers Federation ISF) announced over the weekend that the Merchant Navy Officers Association at Chennai, India - MNOA – had staged their first demonstration Friday, December 5th, 2008.

The protest was held inside Chennai Port, in protest against thedetention of two Indian Mariners in South Korea following the Hebei Spirit disaster.

The protest was held in front of a Car Carrier loading South Korean cars in the Port, to highlight the injustice that is being done to the Master and Chief Officer of the Hebei Spirit.

This was a follow up to a 500-strong Flag March carried out by MNOA on the 5th of October, for the same purpose, with more expected to follow throughout India.

With such protests targeted at South Korean cars and other products, this may unfortunately start to affect other non-Korean shipping companies in the near future – hopefully other companies will also make their voices heard against the South Korean shipping authorities.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal branches stick together.

This is the main satellite communications equipment damaged by the hooks of the Samsung Crane barge, swinging wildly along the deck of the VLCC, while the crane barge bounced along the port side hull of the Hebei Spirit.

The much disputed Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal Report, full of errors, omissions and false assumptions has now been endorsed by the full Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal, as the original report (first published as the Incheon Maritime Safety Report on September 4) was again released on Thursday, December 4th, in Korea.

Yet again without consultation with the stakeholders (except perhaps Samsung) and in time for the Korean Appeal Court Judges to consider – prior to deciding on the fate of the two Indian seafarers (who have already been found innocent by a Korean court once) – as they hand down their decision next Wednesday, December 10th.

Korea has continually, In this matter, the Korean maritime authorities have and continue to ignore the IMO regulations and manipulated the findings to their own benefit – or was it Samsung - despite being part of the group that signed off on those same rules and regulations.

With an estimated control of about 26percent of Korea’s GDP, Samsung as a Corporation undoubtedly has influence far surpassing that of a Hong Kong registered, Chinese owned, Indian crewed shipping company.

But should innocent Indian seafarers have to go to prison to satisfy the ego of people running the country’s largest corporation?

Should the Indian Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit be found guilty next week, facing up to a 3 year jail sentence – it is difficult to see many Indian seafarers crewing ships visiting Korean ports in the future.

In a time when there is a shortage of experienced crews worldwide - how many other shipowners, including Korean shipping companies, will be effected if the Indian shipping community endorse such a move.

Korea should (and by their decision next week may inadvertently do so) make it abundantly clear whether they want to be part of:

- The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ?
- As the IMO is a part of the UN, the United Nations ?
- The international shipping community, as a whole ?

Countries cannot be part of international organizations and then just ignore the agreed regulations whenever it suits them (Korea is a member of the UN, of IMO and many other industry groups) - which is the danger facing Korea's maritime industry.

The general pubic as well as the maritime industry is still amazed at how a stationary, anchored VLCC, repeatedly battered by a huge Samsung crane barge, creating holes in 3 tanks in the process – can be blamed and its seafarers face criminal charges for spilling crude oil – because they did not get out of the way in the 8 minutes, from the time of the tow wire snapping to the Samsung Crane Barge battering of the hull of the anchored VLCC.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

5 basic points (in official IMST/KMST Report) that demonstrate lack of maritime knowledge and/or bias against Hebei Spirit crew by IMST/KMST experts?

Damage caused to Hebei Spirit by the Samsung Crane barge No1. There were a total of 9 moments of impact and puncturing of 3 cargo holds. The shaded parts are the empty ballast tanks.


Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) experts continue to ignore IMO Regulations, by avoiding consultations with other parties involved - despite blatant errors in 1st Ruling – as the appeal hearing against the IMST (Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal) Report is about to be handed down by the Central Division of the KMST, 1 week prior to judges making a decision on the overall Appeal Court hearing and deciding the fate of the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit, who have already been detained in Korea for 1 year, despite initiale "innocent" findings by the court.

No consultation and despite IMO regulations that maritime Safety Tribunal reports not be used injudicial proceedings, the KMST is expected to publish their final report today - 1 week before the the final Appeals Court judgement.


Is this a level playing field?.

We hope the final Report from the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal does not contain the same errors, omissions and biased comments as shown in the Incheon branch of the KMST and to make matters clear, we have identified some blatant mistakes from their Report along with our comments below.

In the initial ruling from the IMST, their maritime experts say as follows, with our comments interspersed:

“ The marine pollution due to the collision of this case (“Marine Pollution”) was caused by the following: The tugboats, “Samsung T-5” and “Samho T-3,” failed to take early actions in response to the weather changes while they were performing the towing operations for the barge “Samsung No. 1.” The marine spread encountered bad weather and lost its towing ability …
1.
The tow never lost its full towing ability prior to the parting of the towline of “SAMSUNG T-5” after the “SAMSUNG T-5” had passed the bow of the Hebei Spirit and, as the IMST have noted above, those on the marine spread never notified anyone of their movements or broadcast / signaled any warnings until prompted by the action of those on the “HEBEI SPIRIT”.

to the extent that it was impossible to navigate the vessels as intended. However, the marine spread continued to navigate without taking any safety measures, such as warning the other vessels nearby or performing emergency anchoring, etc. In the end, the towing line of Samsung T-5 broke under the circumstances where the marine spread had approached too closely to the anchored vessel, M/V “Hebei Spirit,”

The breaking of the towline of “SAMSUNG T-5” was the prime cause of the collision. Prior to its parting the marine spread was passing clear, albeit to the windward side, of the anchored tanker. Had it not parted there would have been no collision, nor pollution. The tow wire, its maintenance and use, is the responsibility of the tug operators/managers and their masters and crew, as is the overall operation of the tugs and barge. As such, those on “HEBEI SPIRIT” have absolutely no liability for the way the marine spread was operated/managed.

The following contributed to the marine pollution due to the collision: Despite the fact that “Hebei Sprit” was anchored in an area frequented by sailing vessels and had a duty of care, it was negligent in performing its duty and failed to notice the marine spread early.
2.
Those on the anchored “HEBEI SPIRIT” did not fail to notice the approach of the marine spread in a reasonable time. As was shown in the VTS/VHF transcript, action was being taken on “HEBEI SPIRIT” before any notification from those on board the marine spread. Responses to calls from the VLCC and Daesan VTS were ignored by those on the tugs.


Under the circumstance where it had to belatedly avoid the collision, Hebei Spirit could not help but go dead slow astern because it did not have its main engines fully prepared.
3.
“HEBEI SPIRIT”’s engine was fully prepared 40 minutes before the collision and it was not necessary to use the engine in any more than dead slow astern to stretch the cable prior to the collision. Thereafter, the evidence from the engine data logger after the collision shows that the vessel used slow astern and half astern settings successfully.


In addition, after the occurrence of the collision, it failed to actively perform responsive measures under the Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan because it lacked understanding of the seriousness of the marine pollution.
4.
The actions of the crew of “HEBEI SPIRIT” correctly followed international guidelines which have been developed over the years from incidents involving catastrophic casualties of tankers. In addition, at no time during the immediate aftermath of the collision were they ever criticized by the Korean authorities for failing to adequately respond to the leakage of oil.


The Report seems to suggest that taking measures to stop the oil leakage should have been carried out before:
a. waiting till the crane barge had cleared the Hebei Spirit hull. The crane barge took in excess of 20 minutes

to bounce along the hull of the VLCC, creating 3 breaches in tanks from bow to stern. During those 20
odd minutes, oil started flowing from 3 tanks
b. once barge had cleared, checking whereabouts and safety of all crew
c. checking which tanks were breached and how badly
d. pumping inert gas into breached tanks to maintain oxygen below low explosive limit
e. checking structural integrity of vessel to ensure safety of ship


These actions all take time and damage could not be seen from inside the Bridge while the Samsung crane barge smashed its way along the hull of the VLCC – hindsight is a different matter.

Readings from equipment on the VLCC, also showed that over 4,000 tonnes (nearly half) of crude oil spilled into the sea within first 30 minutes of being breached, i.e. while the Samsung crane barge continued to bounce along the hull, totally out of control with its crane hooks swinging wildly along the deck towards the Bridge.

Some recommended actions from the Maritime Tribunal experts were to ..
a. transfer the crude to other tanks (all tanks were 98% full)
b. if cargo tanks full, should have used empty ballast tanks to transfer oil (piping systems were totally

independent of each other)
c. claims that Korean University tests showed that if VLCC had been listed to 18deg, the oil would have
stopped flowing out (the vessel was listed to about 5deg, any more on a full VLCC in Beaufort Force 6-7
winds with 4 metre waves and the ship’s stability would have been compromised. If ship had sunk, spillage
could have increased to 200,000 plus tonnes of crude in lieu of around 10,500)

5.
A glaring omission or misunderstanding in the IMST Report was in regards to the Insurance Certificate for the Marine Spread.

The IMST experts have used the wording of the insurance certificate as the basic instructions for the voyage. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the insurance surveyor and his certificate. In this respect the IMST experts have fundamentally misunderstood of the role of the insurance surveyor, and demonstrated a reliance on a towage survey that is crucially misplaced particularly as it was not valid for this particular voyage.

In implying that SHI had acted correctly in obtaining an insurance certificate, the IMST ignored the fact that SHI had not arranged an insurance survey for the voyage from Incheon.

The insurance towage certificate, used in the IMST Report, as the deciding factor for the fitness and operation of the marine spread for the voyage was not valid. The independent survey used as evidence in the court hearings and the appeal hearings was covering a single voyage from Geoje to Incheon, not the return voyage to Geoje.

It can be seen from the certificate that it was valid for a period of seven days after the issue date of the certificate for a single voyage from Geoje, the 26th November 2007.

The accident occurred on December 7th, on the return voyage from Incheon and as such, this certificate has absolutely no validity for the return journey, and yet the IMST just totally ignore this obvious fact.


The question should be asked why?

We hope that the Korean judicial system will not take the Incheon / KMST report of this incident into its deliberation in handing down a judgement next week, as it does not represent all of the true facts of the case and is only one (1) side of the story – that of Samsung and the Prosecutor.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

International Transport Federation (ITF) urges 656 member unions to urge Korea to hand down impartial judgement -

A shot of the No5 tank of the Hebei Spirit, with a rigged matting procedure used to slow down the oil flow from the cargo tank with the largest breach created by the Samsung crane barge repeatedly smashing along the port side hull of the VLCC, Hebei Spirit


Last Friday, the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) issued a press release calling on all it 656 member unions to to contact Korean Authorities with an aim to ensure fair play for the 2 officers of the Hebei Spirit, whose Appeal Court proceedings are awaiting judgement (expected December 10), after having been found innocent the first time around in June of this year.

"
Union movement mobilises behind Hebei Spirit officers

The ITF today mobilised its entire membership to back efforts to secure the release of the Hebei Spirit’s two officers, who are facing judgement in South Korea on 10 December.

In letters and calls ITF Maritime Coordinator Stephen Cotton has today personally asked the Federation’s 656 member unions to approach the Korean authorities and remind them that the eyes of the world will be on the court and expecting nothing less than an impartial examination of all the evidence – which the ITF and others believe proves the men have been unjustly detained on a prosecutor’s whim and despite having already been found innocent of any blame.

The ITF and its unions will lobby Korean contacts, friends, businesses, diplomats and embassies to convey the message that it is putting its faith in the judges to conduct the trial in the fair and impartial manner that world opinion will expect, free from any suggestion of political interference.

Stephen Cotton commented: “The Hebei Spirit oil spill was a traumatic event in Korea, and there can be no intent to evade responsibility for it. But that blame has already been apportioned by its courts. The tanker was safely at anchor when a runaway barge holed it and those in charge of that barge, and those who owned it, Samsung, have been punished. To try and find others to share that punishment, or lay off some of the blame, especially on conveniently foreign ship’s officers, would be inexcusable.

He continued: “Frankly, that these men are in detention when they have been proved blameless is both impossible to understand and deeply injurious to South Korea’s image abroad. There is only one result that can redress the wrong that has been done to these two men.”

“Yesterday the Greek courts were big enough to admit that they had committed an error in unfairly criminalising a Croatian ship master, Captain Kristo Laptalo. We hope that the South Korean judiciary will consider that example when making up its mind here.”


He concluded: “We remain committed to the bringing to justice of wrongdoers, the investigation of accidents as sea, and the learning of lessons from those investigations. What we cannot and will not support is the continued criminalisation of seafarers.”

ENDS

HEBEI SPIRIT FACT SHEET

Summary

1. The MT Hebei Spirit oil spill in South Korea in December last year was a major incident that had ongoing environmental and economic effects. It was the country’s worst ever such release. The spill was about one-third of the size of the Exxon Valdez release and occurred when a barge struck the Hebei Spirit, which was safely anchored. Despite having been found innocent of any negligence, the Hebei Spirit’s Captain Jasprit Chawla and its Chief Officer Syam Chetan remain in Korea awaiting the results of an appeal, during which they will again faced charges. The appeal decision will be handed down on 10th December.

2. The ITF is very concerned by this example of the criminalisation of seafarers in an incident for which they bear no responsibility. Together with world shipping industry bodies, it has constantly pressed for the men to be allowed to return home pending the new trial, but to no avail. In the run-up to the judgment 10th December, the ITF is asking its affiliates to take action, aimed at drawing the Korean authorities’ attention to the men’s case. From now to December 9th, ITF affiliates are asked to:

Make appointments with Korean embassies and diplomatic representatives to meet, express their concerns and present the attached model letter.

Speak informally to any Korean shipping contacts they may have, at the highest possible level, to express concern.

The Incident

3. At about 7:30 local time on December 7, 2007, a tug-towed crane barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries collided with the anchored Hong Kong registered Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Hebei Spirit, which was carrying 260,000 tonnes (290,000 short tons) of crude oil. The incident occurred near the Port of Daesan on the Yellow Sea coast of Taean County. The barge was floating free after the cable linking it to the tug had snapped in the rough seas. Although no casualties were reported, the collision punctured three of the five tanks aboard the Hebei Spirit and resulted in the leaking of some 10,800 tonnes of oil. Considerable public outrage and concern followed. Korean fishing communities and fishers’ livelihoods were seriously affected.

4. On December 20, the Korean Coast Guard completed an initial investigation. According to their conclusions, blame was shared between the tug captains, the barge captain, and the officers of the Hebei Spirit. The tug captains and the barge captain were charged with negligence and violating the marine pollution prevention law. The officers of the Hebei Spirit were charged with violating marine law. On June 24, the trial concluded. The Hebei Spirit officers were exonerated, as were the personnel on the barge. The two tug captains were found guilty. Barge owners Samsung Heavy Industries were also fined.

Continued Detention of Officers

5. Despite their exoneration, the Hebei Spirit's Captain and Chief Officer continue to be detained in Korea. They are currently awaiting decision of the appeal court because the Korean prosecution appealed the case. The Appeal Judge will give the decision 10th December, after which it could go to the Korean Supreme Court. Korea's detention of the crew has generated worldwide controversy and protests. The crew’s release has been demanded by the ITF and the shipping industry.

6. The ITF is deeply troubled by accusations that Korean maritime officials, prosecutors and Samsung lawyers have colluded in the retrial of the two senior officers. Roberto Giorgi, President of management firm V Ships, visited South Korea to meet with the detained Hebei Spirit crew. He told the press that he is concerned at recent developments "which point to collusion" between the Korean authorities, prosecutors and Samsung Heavy Industries, operators of the drifting barge that collided with the oil tanker, and that efforts of Samsung and prosecutors "look to be designed to ensure that the master and chief officer are found guilty on appeal," Giorgi said. "I am worried that the captain and chief officer may not get a fair trial this time around."

Statements and protests

7. On the 7 July 2008, the ITF appealed to the South Korean authorities to allow the two Hebei Spirit officers found innocent of causing the oil spillage to return home. Backed by the ship manager V Ships, the men gave assurances that they would return as and when any further trial took place, following the local prosecutors’ decision to appeal against the judgment that exonerated them of involvement in the spill. ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton said: “Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan have asked to be able to go home pending what might be a wait of many, many months before any possible further hearing. We can see no possible reason why they should not be allowed to do so. …There are a number of cases where seafarers have been criminalised and their basic rights denied. In our experience, detention or inability to leave the country where the investigation is taking place – has the sole effect of creating unnecessary psychological and physical discomfort which ultimately can damage the detained seafarers’ health.”

8. On 22 July 2008 organisations across the shipping world issued a vigorous joint protest at the unjust and unreasonable detention of the two officers. The ITF, BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Shipping Federation (ISF), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO), the International Group of P&I Clubs (IG), and the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association conveyed to the government and authorities of the Republic of Korea their surprise, disappointment and great concern at the news that Korea’s courts intended to continue to detain the ship’s officers, calling this move “unjustified, unreasonable and in contravention of the men’s rights” and reminding the authorities that the trial had determined that another vessel was wholly responsible for the incident.

9. On 31 July 2000 ITF officials met with the two Hebei Spirit officers held in Korea and reported that the men were determined to prove their innocence and had been heartened by the rising chorus of support for them. This included a joint demonstration by Indian seafarers’ unions in Mumbai, which resulted in an Indian Government pledge to take up their plight with the Korean Government and the UN’s International Maritime Organization, and a promise from the Korean Consul to raise the matter in Seoul. ITF General Secretary David Cockroft, who met with Justice Ministry officials in Seoul on the men’s behalf, commented that the spill was a desperately serious matter for the thousands of people living or working in the area, who needed compensation and help. However, he said, the two seafarers had been found innocent of involvement. It was time to reconsider, and release them, he stated.

10. The ITF Seafarers’ Section Conference meeting in Hong Kong on 18-19 November 2008 resolved to make “every effort to secure the immediate release of the Captain and Chief Officer of the Hebei Spirit and an end to the injustice they have been subjected to.”

11. On 21 November 2008, maritime trade unions and shipping companies jointly condemned the ongoing detention of the two officers. Union and ship owner representatives meeting in Hong Kong jointly condemned the treatment of them and pledged to do all they could to secure their release. Both parties stated that since the collision and the ensuing oil spill could not be attributed to any negligence on the officers’ part and since they had already been proven innocent under South Korean law, their treatment was unlawful and unjust, and contravened their human rights.

12. On 26 November at the opening of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) Maritime Safety Committee in London the ITF backed strong interventions in favour of the detained officers from India, Hong Kong and China, stating: “We sympathise with those in South Korea affected by the oil spill but are conscious that Capt Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan have been found innocent of causing last December’s spill. We accept that the Korean Government cannot interfere with the judicial system but call on them to do everything possible to enable the seafarers to be repatriated as soon as possible. Seafarers throughout the world and their representatives are deeply concerned at the unjust treatment of these men and condemn this as another blatant case of criminalisation of a profession that is relied on for our trade. The ITF believes it is time for these men to go home and restore the image of the Republic of Korea as a place where a seafarer can expect fair treatment, justice and respect of their rights.”

13. For more information and views on this (not necessarily those of the ITF), including video footage of the incident please see the following blog: https://owa.mailseat.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://justiceforhebeispirit.blogspot.com
"

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Korean Maritime Authorities a law unto themselves : Part II

The damage made by the first contact between the unsecured spreader beams on the falls of the crane contacted the fore mast damaging the navigation lights, created sparks which were visually seen and helped confirm the time of first contact. The engine room alarm logger has the following alarm recorded at 0658 hours: a leakage to earth (ships steel structure) of electricity from the appliances served by the 100 volt switch board. This is consistent with the damages to the electrical cabling and fittings on the foremast, including the lights.

In substantiation against the master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit, Korean experts are blaming the Master of Hebei Spirit for not slipping or breaking a 385 metre anchor chain where each metre weighed 27.5kg, within a maximum of 8 minutes (no warning till at least 2 minutes had gone),; in strong winds of 15~18 m/s (Beaufort scale 6 ~7), and 4m+ high waves. . This also does not take into account that the Hebei Spirit would have to move forwards, toward the MS in order to pull up the anchor chain.

As Samsung said nothing in contradiction when this Report ( with comments such as above) was submitted as evidence during the hearings – do we assume that the world’s leading shipbuilder also agrees with this comment as well as the so called KMST experts?

The Report, issued September 4th, 2008 by the Incheon Branch of the KMST (Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal)
http://www.geocities.com/hebeispirit@ymail.com has clearly contravened a number of IMO Regulations as explained below, in addition to using physically impossible assumptions to create new evidence.

Furthermore, by the local Prosecutor submitting this Report as evidence in the Criminal Appeal Proceedings - the multiple errors and biased comments give presence to a distinct prejudicial effect on this case – as the KMST investigators are perceived to be impartial and experts in matters marine

Given the content of the report -which you can see for yourself at
http://www.geocities.com/hebeispirit@ymail.com
the perceptions of being impartial and expert are difficult to uphold. If there had been collaboration between all parties to the incident – as stipulated by the IMO regulations – we don’t see how Samsung could have agreed to statements such as :

e.g. The report states: “When the T5 towline broke, should (the fully laden VLCC) have gone fully astern and slipped/broken the anchor cable.”

Especially given the time between the towing wire and smashing into the VLCC, was around 8 minutes at best, with the Marine Spread (MS) advising the wire had broken around 5- minutes prior to impact at best.

Gan Tae Kim and Seung Min Cho reported to the Daesan VTS the severing of the towing line of “Samsung T-5” at around 0655 hours and 0657 hours, respectively and the Hebei Spirit engine room alarm logger has recorded an alarm recorded at 0658 hours. This alarm description is a leakage to earth (ships steel structure) of electricity from the appliances served by the 100 volt switch board. This is consistent with damages to the electrical cabling and fittings on the foremast, including the lights, the sparking of which was visibly seen after the spreader beam of the crane barge contacted the foremast.

Re Breaches of the IMO Regulations (by section)
In order to remain a separate and impartial to any judiciary action (as the IMO intended), in this instance the IMO was ignored and several breaches of the IMO code occurred as shown below..

As a result, the investigative report – instead of being an independent, investigative report, became a highly prejudicial document, full of erroneous information biased against the previous innocent verdict of the Hebei Spirit, its C/O and Master..

The specific breaches of the IMO code relate to …
Apportioning of Blame. [IMO Code : Chapter 1]
Clearly intended with quotes from the Report such as: “ e.g. Master was “negligent” for failing to:
1. “ avoid collision with the Marine Spread..”
1. “ immediately stop the leakage of oil cargo..”

Lack of co-operation. [IMO Code: Chapter 10]
Very little of the evidence obtained by the KMST during it’s investigation was made available to the other Interested States – basically no collaboration and as a result much evidence omitted.

No Consultation prior to release. [IMO Code: Chapter 13]
The KMST Decision was rendered on 4 September 2008 with no prior consultation with the Interested States and Parties (to be fair, we did not ask Samsung)

Being used as evidence in the criminal proceedings. [IMO Code: Chapter 23]
The Report released by the KMST announcing its findings and decision was submitted in evidence in the Criminal Appeal Proceedings by the local Prosecutor

Who is the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal?
All Flag States have a safety tribunal set up to investigates all types of marine casualties in Territorial waters, including those involving foreign ships.

In Korea, the KMST and Korean Territorial waters are divided into 4 areas, or districts: Inchon - Mokpo - Busan - Donghae. On this occasion, the Incheon District Regional office of the KMST conducted an investigation of the Hebei Spirit incident and rendered a decision on September 4th, 2008 using it to serve the purpose of introducing biased findings to persuade the Appeals Court to amend the initial Court’s findings of “innocent” for the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit..

Monday, 24 November 2008

Korean Maritime Authorities a law unto themselves

After failing to persuade a Korean court that the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit were in any way responsible for the pollution which followed the Samsung Crane barge repeatedly smashing onto the hull of the Hebei Spirit, the Prosecutor and Samsung immediately appealed against the Korean court’s innocent decision.

For the full KMST report, please click:

http://www.geocities.com/hebeispirit@ymail.com


On realising they had no new evidence or facts to work with, the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal came to their rescue by rushing through an investigation and judgement which basically agreed that the collision was the fault of the tugs towing the Samsung Crane Barge (marine spread / MS); then spent 2/3 of the report criticising and incorrectly bringing up facts that had been disproved in the initial trial.

According to the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Interim Guidelines (MSC/Circ 1058) and the IMO Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents (the “Code”), the purpose of any Marine Casualty Investigation Report issued in accordance with the Code, is not to:

1. determine liability or apportion blame
2. not intended for use in Criminal Proceedings and
3. member States are encouraged to withhold publication until legal proceedings are completed (Korea is a member of both the United Nations and the IMO)

but that is exactly what this KMST Decision has done, in direct contravention of the above stated IMO Code.

The KMST Decision was issued following minimal co-operation with the HEBEI SPIRIT Flag State, and a consultative draft was not circulated to all interested parties for comment before the Decision was publicly rendered.

The Master and C/O were both blamed and found liable in a section of the report headed “Acts by Relevant Persons”.

The report itself – by the Incheon (one of 4 branches of the KMST (Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal) was issued September 04, 2008; during the Criminal Appeal Proceedings and has already been submitted as evidence in those proceedings soon after it was issued, by the Prosecutor.

During the actual Criminal Appeal Proceedings, the prosecutor and Samsung’s Defence lawyer have both made frequent references to this KMST Decision and in particular the sections finding fault on the part of the master and chief officer of the HEBEI SPIRIT.

This KMST Decision was issued following minimal co-operation with the HEBEI SPIRIT Flag State, and a consultative draft was not circulated to all interested parties for comment before the Decision was publicly rendered – once more against the relevant IMO Code.

Tomorrow, we will start to point out some of the more blatant inaccuracies of this rushed Report by the KMST.


A scale drawing of the relative sizes of the Samsung crane barge compare to the VLCC Hebei Spirit

Union and Owner representative body condemn Korean treatment of Hebei Spirit Master and C/O


Lloyds List report yet another condemnation from IBF, an independent industry body, on Korea’s treatment of Master and C/O of Hebei Spirit


The International Bargaining Forum, which brings together union and vessel owner representatives, released a press release which condemned the treatment of the officers of crude oil tanker Hebei Spirit detained in South Korea and pledged its members to do all they can to secure their release.


Meeting in Hong Kong last week, the IBF spoke out on the plight of Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan and their respective families (both have young children).
Capt Chawla and his family


The two men have been refused permission to return home even though they were acquitted by a South Korean Court under article 325 of the Criminal Procedure Act of South Korea and cleared of all charges of violating the nation's anti-pollution laws when a passing mobile craft collided with their vessel last December.


The IBF stated that since the collision and the ensuing oil spill cannot be attributed to any negligence on their part and since they have already been proven innocent under South Korean law, the treatment of them is unlawful and unjust, and in contravention of their human rights.


Captain Manji, Chairman of the JNG said: "Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan have been found innocent of causing last December's spill, they have been held for nearly a year and now they are being effectively punished further on a virtual non-charge.


The treatment of these men has been repudiated by us, by the shipping industry, by seafarers' unions and by the Indian Government, all of whom have petitioned the Korean Government and courts for their release. All of us are aware of the effect the oil spill had on those who live and work in the area, but picking on these two officers will not lessen the damage."


Brian Orrell, Chairman of the Seafarers Section said: "It is time to let these men go home and restore South Korea's image as a place where justice is done, not a place where it is seen to be undone. We respect the independence of the nation's courts and we all ask them to respect the rights of these men to a family life and to resume their jobs.


Here we have yet another blatant unjustified case of criminalisation of a profession that is relied upon to carry trade throughout the world. The men have already been cleared of any responsibility and yet they continue to be hounded, as scapegoats are needed. If this continues there will be no one willing to go to sea".

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Result of Appeal Court hearings depend on questionable KMST report

Result of Appeal Court hearings seem dependent on questionable report issued by Branch of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal – which findings against the Hebei Spirit also are in line with the Reasons for Appeal by both Samsung and the Prosecutor’s Office, submitted around 2 months prior to the release of this Report on September 4, 2008

After nearly 3 months of submissions and court hearings in the 2nd trial of the incident involving the VLCC Hebei Spirit and Samsung’s crane barge – there was very little in the way of new evidence introduced by either the Prosecutor’s office or Samsung (found guilty in the first trial but allowed to assist the Prosecutor’s office – to the extent of cross-examining witnesses for the Hebei Spirit team during the Appeal Hearings).

The only difference in the Appeal Court hearings (from the original trial where a Korean court found the Master and C/O and the owner of the Hebei Spirit, innocent of all charges) came from the official report issued by the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal (IMST), a branch of the main Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST).

It appears, that both the Prosecutor’s office and Samsung were aware of the IMST findings beforehand, as their Reasons for Appeal bear very close resemblance to the IMST’s main findings of fault on the part of the Hebei Spirit

This possibility of collusion was fiercely defended by the Korean Consulate in London, but it also difficult to see how the official IMST report could have the same findings – in relation to the IMST’s main findings of fault on the part of the Hebei Spirit - as the Reasons for Appeal submitted by Samsung and the Prosecutor – nearly two months apart. Who copied who??

We will provide readers with a link within the next day or two and they may download and/or read the complete IMST report for themselves – and decide.

The actual IMST report was also issued contrary to IMO regulations. Such investigative reports by flag states are normal procedure, but not issued until legal proceedings have been completed; as they are not meant to influence or be used in any legal proceedings (e.g. Hong Kong, the other flag state involved will not release their report until the criminal charges have been dealt with. Furthermore, under the IMO regulations, such report should have been sent to all parties for review and consultation with owners and flag state (Hong Kong for the Hebei Spirit). This did not happen, at least in so far as the owners and flag state of the Hebei Spirit were concerned.

What did happen was that the Report received a lot of attention and was freely available in Korea - but without all the parties involved having any recourse to explain, comment, correct the details, which were not backed up by facts and relied on assumptions and factual data from the 1st hearing – which was omitted. Not to mention key Korean witnesses (on behalf of the Hebei Spirit) which for unknown and unexplained reasons were suddenly not available to appear at the Appeal Court hearings.

Despite Samsung being the guilty party, the emphasis in the report was on criticising the actions of the Hebei Spirit and her crew – with almost no mention of the defense for the Samsung Marine Spread (MS) and its crew.

As quoted from the introductory summary of findings from the IMST Report :

“ The marine pollution due to the collision of this case (“Marine Pollution”) was caused by the following: The tugboats, “Samsung T-5” and “Samho T-3,” failed to take early actions in response to the weather changes while they were performing the towing operations for the barge “Samsung No. 1.” The marine spread encountered bad weather and lost its towing ability to the extent that it was impossible to navigate the vessels as intended. However, the marine spread continued to navigate without taking any safety measures, such as warning the other vessels nearby or performing emergency anchoring, etc. In the end, the towing line of Samsung T-5 broke under the circumstances where the marine spread had approached too closely to the anchored vessel, M/V “Hebei Spirit,” and “Samsung T-5” drifted towards “Hebei Spirit.” The following contributed to the marine pollution due to the collision: Despite the fact that “Hebei Sprit” was anchored in an area frequented by sailing vessels and had a duty of care, it was negligent in performing its duty and failed to notice the marine spread early. Under the circumstance where it had to belatedly avoid the collision, Hebei Spirit could not help but go dead slow astern because it did not have its main engines fully prepared. In addition, after the occurrence of the collision, it failed to actively perform responsive measures under the Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan because it lacked understanding of the seriousness of the marine pollution.”

Factual evidence from the original hearing does not support the finding of these hearings. For example:


“ … in the end, the towing line of Samsung T-5 broke under the circumstances where the marine spread had approached too closely to the anchored vessel, M/V “Hebei Spirit,” and "Samsung T-5” drifted towards “Hebei Spirit.”

The towing line broke after the MS (marine spread) had passed the bow of the Hebei Spirit around 200 Metres and was proceeding away from the Hebei Spirit.

“ … The following contributed to the marine pollution due to the collision: Despite the fact that “Hebei Sprit” was anchored in an area frequented by sailing vessels and had a duty of care, it was negligent in performing its duty and failed to notice the marine spread early.”
The Hebei Spirit was anchored in the area designated by the Daesan VTS the previous evening. Previous evidence showed that the Hebei Spirit C/O noticed the marine spread before the anyone else and were the first to advise the VTS that there may be a problem, asking for clarification – which did not come for some time as the MS was unable to contact anyone from the MS via normal VHF (channel 16) communications.

“ … after the occurrence of the collision, it failed to actively perform responsive measures under the Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan because it lacked understanding of the seriousness of the marine pollution.”

An assumption and opinion made without any factual evidence – unless they refer to a similar comment made by the Prosecution team during the Appeal hearings that the Master of the Hebei Spirit should not have ..


* immediately after the collision checked on the location and condition of his crew

* investigated the condition of his ship, where the breaches were located, if there was any danger to the integrity of his ship which may leave it vulnerable to further losses

* as the report criticized - wasted time pumping inert gas into the breached tanks but rather concentrated on minimizing the leakage of oil from breached tanks (no suggestion as to how?)

The investigation also suggested that we should have transferred oil from the breached tank to other tanks and if they were full, why didn’t we transfer oil to the empty ballast tanks?

Obviously the fact that according to class rules for this type of vessel, the cargo piping system and ballast piping system had been designed to operate separately and with no connecting piping system was either not known to them or did not occur to them?

Next time, we will look at some of the other assumptions and accidental (?) omissions that appear in the IMST (KMST) findings, issued around commencement of the Appeal proceedings, possibly as there was no new factual evidence available.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Indian Unions plan protest action against Samsung

This letter was recently received by us and is a good sampling of the activities that are ongoing and being planned against Samsung, in a strong show of support for the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit.

“Dear All,

Sub : Unjust detention of Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan - boycott of Samsung Products.

You are aware that Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan are detained in Korea since December, 2007. Their detention follows the case involving their tanker ship Hebei Spirit which was collided by a floating crane resulting in oil spill.

The officers were acquitted by Daejeon District Court in the city of Seosan, South Chungcheong Province, on South Koreas West Coast. Despite being declared innocent of all charges of violating the ocean pollution law the Korean court is determined to continue to detain them.

These seafarers have co-operated fully with the Korean Authorities and have been present at the Court proceedings whenever required. This is unfair, unjustified and violation of basic rights of a seafarer. The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and the Maritime Union of India (MUI) under the banner of Indian Seafarers Federation (ISF) had highlighted this issue earlier.

Since the floating crane which collided with Hebei Spirit is owned by Samsung Company it is alleged that Samsung which is a giant Korean company is trying to influence the case and hence will also try to implicate Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan in some manner or another to find a scapegoat.

The Court judgement will be delivered on 10th December, 2008. The allegation under the influence of Samsung could result in a three-year imprisonment for both Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan as demanded by the prosecution.

Now it is time for the Indian shipping fraternity to take this giant company head on and to show who the Indian shipping fraternity really is. We need to express and show solidarity with Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan

It is suggested that we have to do this by way of the following:

ئnbsp; The Indian shipping fraternity including more than two hundred thousand Indian seafarers, ship owners, manning agents, ship manning staff, ship chandlers, Maritime Administration and also the general public who are proud Indians will boycott all types of Samsung products.

ئnbsp; Indian shipping companies who have placed order in Korea for new ship building should cancel their orders under protest

ئnbsp; Demonstrations will be held in Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai and Mumbai wherein effigies of Samsung Company and their products will be burnt as a mark of protest against Samsung Company and in solidarity with Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan.

We are also getting in touch with the celebrities who are endorsing the Samsung products to provide their support to this cause. These are some thoughts and thoughts can materialize in to actions only and if only You Care.

We would like to have your feedback on this issue latest by 19th November, 2008 with your suggestions and support. We request you to forward this email to large number of people for maximum publicity to make this issue a success. In case you do not find this idea good then you will have to give your suggestions or ideas regarding in what other manner you can contribute to the early release of Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan. We will be monitoring all the emails.

Remember today it is Capt. Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan tomorrow it could be any other Indian citizen. So it is advised that you do not sleep over this issue and get in touch with us on ag.serang@yahoo.com before the 19th of November, 2008.

Yours faithfully, Yours faithfully,
(Abdulgani Y. Serang) (S.S. Khan)
General Secretary-cum-Treasurer General Secretary
National Union of Seafarers of India The Maritime Union of India
Mob. 9820149654 Mob. No. 9820225652


Monday, 17 November 2008

How the Samsung crane barge smashed into the Hebei Spirit?

video

This short clip was taken by one of the crew of the Hebei Spirit as the Samsung No1 crane barge repeatedly smashed into the hull of the Hebei Spirit bouncing along from bow to stern, in the process holing 3 tanks on the port side.

This is not the “level playing field” the shipping industry is looking for

Will Korean judges contradict each other in looking for ways to cast blame on crew and owner of anchored VLCC, holed (resulting in oil spill) by run-away Samsung crane barge in strong winds and rough weather

December 10 is D-day for a judgement in the Appeal (by Samsung and the Korean Prosecutor’s office) against the ‘innocent’ ruling handed down by a Korean court back in June.

Since the first innocent ruling, the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal (IMST) has published its report, criticizing the Master and C/O of the Hebei Spirit

This is an official report which is not meant to apportion blame but to report on the cause of the collision and resultant oil spill, and to then comment on what can be done to prevent re-occurrence of similar situations in the future.

Despite this, 70percent of the report seems to be focused on finding fault with actions of the crew of the Hebei Spirit (the party found innocent last June), which had been anchored since the previous evening; before the Marine Spread tried to cross its bow, and one of tugs towing wires snapped, in dark and stormy conditions, just prior to dawn.

Very little comment was made regarding the navigation of the marine spread (MS)– why had it put to sea when the forecasted weather conditions exceeded those permitted for the MS to sail?

Why did the tugs masters decide to pass so dangerously close across the bows of the anchored Hebei Spirit
Why was the lead tug using an old crane luffing wire for a tow line, when it was unsuitable for this purpose?
Why was the tow line so short, and the towing arrangements improper?
Why were the Captains of the Samsung tugs not on the bridge (1 of them was in fact asleep till shortly before the collision)?
Why were the tugs not answering initial radio communications from both the Hebei Spirit and the local maritime authorities until shortly before the collision?
All points made in the original court hearings .. but glossed over in the official report by the IMST; especially seeing that Samsung was the party that had previously been found guilty of causing the collision.

In fact, the IMST report showed little interest in factual evidence, just a lot of unfounded assumptions and comments – including an opinion that the tanker and shipping industry as a whole would be horrified at; i.e. that the Master of the Hebei Spirit should have placed the safey of the environment above that of his crew and his ship.

Under international maritime regulations governed by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), a branch of the United Nations, such a report is normal but is meant to be unbiased and sent to all parties for review and consultation prior to being released, normally after the legal process has been completed.

This did not happen in this instance – in fact the appeal documents lodged by both the Prosecutor’s office and Samsung’s legal team bore a very strong resemblance in points made and results reached - to the official report published by the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal, prior to commencement of the appeal hearings (which in itself is against IMO regulations).

While the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal has tried to distance themselves from this report, stating that the IMST is not the official Korean government body for such reports and is therefore not bound by IMO rules; on the website for the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST), the IMST is described as a branch of the KMST.

Convenient, yes. Co-incidence on the timing and rulings, just in time for the new Judge in charge of the Appeal to take into consideration, we doubt it.

We hope to have a copy of the IMST report shortly and will bring to the industry’s attention the so called “new evidence” upon which the decision on December 10th will be made.

Should the previous ‘innocent’ judgement be reversed – we believe the sentence will be implemented immediately – even while a further appeal is being lodged and heard – meaning the Master and C/O will commence any prison sentence imposed within the Judge’s decision handed down.

This is not the “level playing field” the shipping industry is looking for.

With the Samsung group of companies being responsible for some 26+ percent of Korea’s GDP we do not see that as sufficient reason for them to be sitting side by side with the Prosecutor’s office and the Hebei Spirit team on the other. We would have expected Samsung lawyers to be intent on their own defense of criminal charges they were found guilty of, as opposed to acting as the 2nd prosecuting team.

We hope that the Korean courts and maritime authorities will take such obvious biased behaviour as well as the non-factual assumptions made in the IMST , into account when handing down their decision on this appeal.

Dark days for Maritime Industry

When anchored ship blamed for collision and criminal charges filed against Master and Chief Officer – then after having been found innocent once, facing 2nd hearing after being detained in Korea for 12 months.

The Hebei Spirit incident occurred on December 7th, 2007; in which a VLCC, the Hebei Spirit, a Hong Kong owned and flagged ship was anchored off the Korean coast overnight, waiting to discharge at a Korean refinery. At 7.00am, while it was still dark, a Samsung owned large crane barge was being towed by two towing tugs and 1 support tug at the rear (known collectively as a “Marine Spread” - MS). The Samsung crane barge was not self-propelled and smashed into the port side of the VLCC, breaching 3 tanks and causing Korea’s biggest oil spill ever, of around 10,500 tonnes of crude oil.

Weather conditions were rough and beyond the navigational limits prescribed and the MS should never have left port.

Nevertheless, the rough weather alone should not have caused the MS to have any difficulty manoeuvring clear of the anchored Hebei Spirit in the first place. Having put themselves in a bad position, the MS then showed exceptionally poor judgment and seamanship skills in trying to manoeuvre the MS dangerously close across the bows of the Hebei Spirit. In contrast,

If not for the good judgement and quick action of the Master of the Hebei Spirit, by deciding to slack back on the anchor cable thereby increasing the passing distance, the Master avoided the first possibility of a collision..

After the MS had passed across the bow of the Hebei Spirit, by some 200 metres, the tow wire of one of the Samsung tug boats snapped. During the initial hearing evidence was presented that showed the snapped wire was an old luffing wire which had previously been used on the crane, and which was unsuitable for use as a tow wire. It was also too short, and the towing arrangements were improper with no shock absorber.

Under the existing weather conditions, one tug alone was unable to control the crane barge and within some 8 minutes, in dark and stormy conditions the crane barge was pushed by wind and tide into the port side of the Hebei Spirit, The crane barge then proceeded to smash into the port side hull from bow to stern – in the process holing 3 full cargo tanks on the port side.

The Master and C/O of Hebei Spirit are facing criminal charges for not getting out of the way of the MS and for not doing more to prevent the 10,500 tonnes of oil that spilled into the Korean sea.

Having been found innocent once (back in June), Samsung and the Prosecutor’s Office appealed against the innocent verdict, and during the Appeal hearings have come up with no new factual evidence. Instead they have relied on an official report by the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal (IMST), a branch of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) – information contained therein which also happened to be the basis of the Reasons for Appeal lodged by both Samsung and the Korean Prosecutor’s Office and which were lodged weeks before the IMST report was made public..

We hope that the Korean Appeal Court hand down a repeat of the previous judgement – that of being innocent of any criminal charges. Anything else would be a travesty of justice and increase the difficulties of the massive shortage of qualified and experienced Officers the industry is facing.

After all who wants to sail the oceans never knowing when you might face criminal charges (just like a real criminal) for actions and consequences that may have been completely out of your control – as in this instance.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Justice for Hebei Spirit