A SOUTH KOREAN court has jailed the master and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit overturing an earlier ruling.
‘Daejeon District Court handed down an 18 month jail sentence and a fine of Won20m on Hebei Spirit master Jasprit Chawla. The court found that the master should have gone full astern to drag the anchor.Chief officer Syam Chetan was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined Won10m, the court saying he should have been more vigilant and called the Master by 05-50hrs. The decision by the appeal court overturns an earlier ruling and finds the Master and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit partly responsible for the oil spill, which happened when the fully loaded Hebei Spirit was holed by a drifting Samsung crane barge. Both the master and chief engineer were criticised for the usage of inert gas for increasing the oil spill and that they could have listed the tanker by 10 degrees to prevenet the spill. The shipowner Hebei Shipping was fined Won30m. The decision is likely to spark widespread condemnation from the industry which has been united its call for the trial to consider all the facts of the case. “All of the parties related to the Hebei Spirit are very disappointed of course and find the reasons given for the decision – technically flawed, just like both of the KMST (Korea Maritime Safety Tribunal) reports – technically flawed and are considering our options,” said statement issued on behalf of the owners. Independent tanker owners association Intertanko also expressed its disappointment. “Intertanko expresses disappointment with the Korean authorities given all the efforts of owners, managers and the industry in general which seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” said Peter Swift, managing director of Intertanko. Earlier this week Intertanko wrote to South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, saying that it hoped the court would “reach a fair and just decision”.