Monday, 18 May 2009

Samsung must ask itself – was it worth it?


Samsung’s part in the Hebei Spirit saga has not been (and may never be) fully released to the public, but allegations of offers of gifts and employment by Samsung to the crew from the Hebei Spirit have been widely known for some time.

Needless to say these allegations have been totally ignored by both the Korean courts and Government. Why? Such actions are criminal offences. Whereas, two officers avoiding a collision and then working without sleep for two days to minimise oil spilled onto Korean beaches are not criminal offences. They have been, however, classified as such by the Korean Courts.

Is the face-saving exercise of no jail term, but a criminal conviction, for the Hebei Two simply for Samsung’s benefit? Or does the Korean shipping industry see it as a proud moment of righteousness for their country?

It could be argued that Samsung will one day, if they haven’t already, regret their decision to ensure that someone else shared responsibility for Korea’s biggest environmental accident?

Samsung needs to a weigh up if doing so has been worth the serious damage done to their brand globally (particularly in India), their corporate credibility and their reputation in the international maritime community. Likewise, the Korean maritime authorities.

We think not.

One thing is for sure. Once Samsung committed to appealing against the original court decision, which exonerated the Hebei Two, there has been no turning back. Saving face, despite increasing international criticism and significant damage to the Samsung brand, has become paramount for not only one of Korea’s biggest companies, but the country’s legal and maritime authorities as well.

The international maritime community has championed time and again that the Hebei Two’s initial response in avoiding the collision and their response to the spill (which was not of their making) was absolutely correct.

The original Korean Court agreed with this in the first ruling (until Samsung and the prosecutor objected) and stated that the cause of the accident was the breaking of the second-hand Samsung crane runner wire (which was never intended to be used for towing) between the lead tug and the barge.

While 10,500 tonnes of oil escaped the Hebei Spirit, it should never be forgotten that there were over 260,000 tonnes of oil aboard which could have been lost into Korean waters, if not for the actions of the Captain and crew in keeping the ship afloat and minimising the oil spilled.


The international maritime community must not stop protesting the miscarriage of justice done to the Hebei Two.

Contact your local Korean Consulate and tell them to

EXONERATE and RELEASE the HEBEI TWO IMMEDIATELY.

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