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Sunday, November 18, 2018

INTERTANKO disappointment at Korean Court verdict on Hebei Spirit

While INTERTANKO welcomes the decision of Korea’s Supreme Court to accept the appeal concerning the damage to the Hebei Spirit (the so-called ‘destruction’ charges), it notes with surprise its decision to dismiss the appeal concerning the charges of pollution, and is disappointed that it appears that the Master and Chief Officer, sometimes called the Hebei Two, are neither exonerated nor necessarily repatriated immediately.


INTERTANKO is awaiting more detail from the translation of the written verdict, but is immediately concerned that aspects of the case have been referred back to the Appellate Court – which might take 6-10 weeks to start and several months to finish.


The Association is disappointed that the verdict falls short of the ‘innocent of all charges’ verdict handed down by the Daejeon District Court back in June last year. “ These men were found innocent last June by the Daejeon District Court,” says Dr Peter Swift, Managing Director of INTERTANKO. “We are disappointed with the decisions handed down today and are still calling for the full exoneration and immediate repatriation of the two officers.”.


Even though the Hebei Two are now free from the threat of imprisonment, they are in principle required to attend the forthcoming lower court hearings. The conditions of the bail set earlier in the year still require them to remain in Korea. With an ‘exit ban’ still in place, they are unable to return to their families in India.


It is now more than 500 days since the incident, which means  that the Hebei Two, Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan, have been detained in Korea for more than 500 days. Captain Chawla’s wife makes the point when she says, “My husband is not a criminal. He is a professional sea-captain. My husband is a good man. He is honest and hard working and dedicated to his family and to his profession. His continued detention in Korea deprived me of a husband and our son of his father; and the marine profession of one of its best sea captains”.


This result means that, even though the appeal against the ‘destruction’ charges has succeeded, the fines for pollution damage stand and the case will drag on in the lower court, perhaps for several months.


The bid to clear the names of these two innocent men therefore continues.


Contact: Bill Box   or  Michele White