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.”




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:

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) 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
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:

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 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?

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