InterManager, the international inhouse and third party shipmanagement association, has roundly condemned the continuing detention in of the Master and Chief Officer from the tanker Hebei Spirit.
The 1993 built Hebei Spirit was at anchor waiting for a berth when a crane barge broke its tow in stormy weather and smashed into her side, holing three cargo tanks. About 10,500 tons of oil spilled into the sea, causing ’s largest ever oil spill.
Two South Korean tug masters were jailed for their part in the incident but the two Hebei Spirit\ officers, Indian nationals Capt Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, were cleared of all charges on June 23rd.
However, they have since been prevented from leaving pending a retrial that is not expected to take place until early next year. Under South Korean law, prosecutors have appealed to the country’s high court against the decision by a district court in the Daejeon area of that exonerated the men of blame. Depending on the outcome of the high court trial, prosecutors may appeal to ’s Supreme Court, which would result in another retrial which is unlikely to take place until the middle of next year.
The two men have received support not just from their shipmanagement company, V.Ships, but also from other seafarers in messages and telephone calls.
Capt Chawla, who has 17 years of exemplary seafaring service, said in a recent interview that he felt he had done nothing wrong and that he was reluctant to return to sea, fearing that any future decisions he took at the helm would be colored by this experience.