INTERTANKO welcomes Hebei Spirit releases with disappointment at failure to exonerate

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INTERTANKO has expressed delight that Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan, Master and Chief officer of the Hebei Spirit, have finally been released after being held in Korea for 550 days since the accident in December 2007, and will be returning home within days.

“That these men were held for so long is unjust and unacceptable, and support for their case has come from a uniquely broad coalition of the shipping industry – the Round Table of international shipping associations (BIMCO, INTERCARGO, ICS, ISF and INTERTANKO), The International Group of P&I Clubs (IG), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association, InterManager, the International Maritime Employers’ Committee (IMEC) as well as the ship manager V.Ships and dozens of executives of international ship owning companies,” it said in a statement.

“While we were pleased to see the Supreme Court reverse the Appeal Court’s decision to imprison these two officers in respect of the charges brought for destruction of the Hebei Spirit, we nevertheless remain surprised and disappointed at the decision to dismiss the appeal concerning the charges of pollution and to uphold the pollution fines. We are also dismayed that this pollution charge falls short of the ‘innocent of all charges’ verdict handed down by the Daejeon District Court in June 2008.

“These two men acted in an exemplary manner during the Hebei Spirit incident, behaving in a way that was fully consistent with international tanker standards and practices which put the safety of seafarers first – as per the evidence given by INTERTANKO to the Supreme Court. We maintain that is unjust that these two men should have stains on their records when they should have been fully exonerated of blame and applauded for their behaviour.

“We will therefore continue to back efforts to clear the names and reputations of these two men,” it said.