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.

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