June 11, 2009
Hebei Two set to return home
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.
The Supreme Court of South Korea reversed an Appeal Court decision to imprison the two officers in respect of the charges brought for destruction of the Hebei Spirit. However it dismissed their appeal concerning charges of pollution and upheld the pollution fines imposed.
This part of the decision has outraged maritime organizations.
"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," said INTERTANKO. "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 behavior."
ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said: "We are pleased--everyone is pleased-- to see these men's innocence upheld. But, like everyone in shipping, we find it unacceptable that the lesser charge against them was never removed. We commend them for their bravery these last 18 months, congratulate V Ships for standing by them so effectively, and join everyone who has struggled to get them set free in expressing relief at their imminent return home. We cannot however excuse the unfair criminalization that they have undergone and the contradictory nature of the dual verdicts."