Monday, 24 November 2008

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".

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