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Marine Log

July 22, 2008

Shipping industry protests Hebei Spirit detentions

Despite being acquitted of all charges in the Hebei Spirit pollution case, two of the ship's officers are still being detained in South Korea. They are being held pending further hearings into the massive pollution that resulted when the Hebei Spirit was struck by a floating crane.

Organizations from across the world's shipping industry today issued a vigorous joint protest at the continuing unjust and unreasonable detention of Captain Jasprit Chalwa and Chief Officer Syam Chetan.

The statement reads:

We--the Round Table of international shipping associations (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Shipping Federation (ISF), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the International Group of P&I Clubs (IG), and the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association-- wish to convey to the government and authorities of the Republic of Korea our surprise, disappointment and great concern at the news that Korea's courts have determined to continue to detain the ship's officers, despite their acquittal, for possibly as long a year pending further hearings. Such measures appear to be unjustified, unreasonable and in contravention of the men's rights. We strongly believe that they should be permitted to leave the country.

We remind those responsible for the continued detention of, that the trial determined that another vessel which had been towing the floating crane which struck the anchored tanker was wholly responsible for the incident. Despite this finding they have continued to be detained, notwithstanding their own and their employers' assurance that, should a further trial take place, they would attend it

The two officers have been detained in Korea since 7 December and we believe from recent experience in similar cases that such continued unjust detention may well affect the physical and mental health of the two men. This could be avoided by permitting them to return home now to their families until such time as they are needed to assist any further investigation in Korea.

As an industry serving international society, we remain committed to protecting the environment and to the prompt and thorough investigation of accidents at sea. We are committed to bringing to justice those involved in intentional actions that may damage the marine environment.

However, we cannot and will not support the criminalization of seafarers, nor unjust, unreasonable and unfair treatment that is contrary to the principles agreed to worldwide in the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO) Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident.

We appeal to the Government of the Republic of Korea to take the necessary action to ensure that the seafarers are immediately permitted to return to their homes.

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