Friday, December 12, 2008
Managers of a Hong Kong supertanker whose crew chiefs were jailed over South Korea’s worst oil spill have blasted the decision as a “disgrace and insult” to the world shipping community. An international union federation separately described the South Korean appeal court ruling as “incomprehensibly vindictive.” Reversing a lower court decision, the appeal court on Wednesday jailed the Indian captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan after ruling they were negligent in minimising the spillage. The accident happened in December 2007 when a barge carrying a construction crane broke free after a cable of one of two tugs snapped in rough seas.
Hebei SpiritThe barge rammed the anchored 147,000-ton tanker Hebei Spirit, holing it in three places and spilling 10,900 tons of crude oil. V.Ships, which says it is the world’s largest ship manager, said in a statement yesterday the court’s decision “will surely go down as one of the most disgraceful examples of a miscarriage of justice in a ‘supposedly’ advanced nation state. “For Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan to be sentenced to prison terms and led from the court in handcuffs is a disgrace and insult to the whole shipping industry,” it added. Shipping operators and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) insist the tanker crew were blameless. The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners has expressed “extreme dismay and disappointment” at the ruling. V.Ships said the ITF and its international membership were now “questioning whether it was safe for its members to travel on ships to Korea.”