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
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,
8th December 2008