Seafarer criminalization

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Seafarer criminalization

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:41 am

I thought I would start a new section of the forum's general job topic area since it seems to be such a popular topic these days. I, you, can post articles on various prosecutions efforts of seafarers that seem to have no logic to them. A most unfortunate but frequent event born out out of a feeling of inability exert immediate control, I would theorize. Kinda like road rage, or invading countries for no reason, I would imagine it is a need to exert "muscle" to show the world, and its seafarers, who is the boss! Pitiful state of things really.

I would say enjoy, but really, lets be real. This is an added risk of being a seafarer in todays world, and the same "powers that be" wonder why there is a shortage of seafarers. mmmm.

Martin


Croatian master guilty of drug running
Nigel Lowry Athens
18 July 2008 Lloyds List

A VETERAN Croatian reefer master has been convicted by a Greek court of trafficking drugs, in a case that is sure to prompt fresh debate over how seafarers are treated outside their own countries, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens.

Kristo Laptalo, 59, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a court in Patras yesterday. Two shipmates were acquitted.

The trio have spent a full year in a high-security prison outside Athens, after their company’s local agent found 51.6kg of cocaine hidden in a consignment of bananas discharged at the port of Aegion from the 1976-built reefer Coral Sea.

Lithuanian first mate Konstantin Metelev and Filipino bosun Narcisco Garcia are expected to be released today.

The prosecution maintained throughout that there were “serious indications of guilt” on the part of the three men, including the observation that the master and chief mate were in charge of drawing up the loading plan for more than 200,000 boxes of bananas carried on the voyage.

The prosecution case also rested heavily on the argument that if the officers did not know of the location of the drugs the trafficking would have been left to luck.

Lawyers immediately appealed the decision against Capt Laptalo.

Seafarers’ rights groups have already voiced concern over the case, with the Shipmasters’ Association of Croatia arguing that the prosecution was purely one of command responsibility.

Stamatis Tzelepis of the Ioannis Iriotis law office, hired through the P&I club to handle the criminal defence of the three seafarers, said: “This is an outrageous decision.” He said the tribunal of three judges had merely “accepted the prosecutor’s recommendation that the captain was guilty because he was the captain and therefore he must have known [of the crime]”.

Following the hearing, defence lawyers had been confident of a blanket acquittal of the trio, Mr Tzelepis said, based not only on the evidence but on the fact that the president of the court had severely curtailed the defence case.

Six out of 10 defence witnesses were not allowed, while only the briefest of testimony was allowed from the three accused men.

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ANGER, fear, depression and frustration - Hebei Spirit

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:43 am

Hebei Spirit pair face another year in Korea
Keith Wallis, 18 July 2008 Lloyds List

THE master and chief officer from the tanker Hebei Spirit, which was involved in South Korea’s worst oil spill, may not be able to leave Korea until the entire appeals process is exhausted, which may be at least another year.

This emerged as the two men, Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, told of their frustration and depression over their inability to return home in an exclusive interview with Lloyd’s List.

The two Indian nationals have been prevented from leaving South Korea pending a retrial that is not expected to take place until early next year, even though they were cleared of charges related to the oil spill. Under South Korea law, prosecutors have appealed to the country’s high court against the decision by a district court in the Daejeon area of Korea that exonerated the men of blame.

But in a further blow, Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan have been told that depending upon the outcome of the high court trial, prosecutors can appeal to South Korea’s supreme court, which would result in another retrial. This is unlikely to take place until the middle of next year at the earliest.

The procedures were confirmed by South Korean legal sources, who pointed out that there are three court levels in the country — district, high and supreme. Prosecutors have the right to challenge the decisions of the two lower courts if they are unhappy with their judgments.

Hebei Spirit Shipping, a single-ship-owning company controlled by Chinese company, Hebei Ocean Shipping, is also facing the same retrial after being cleared of involvement in the oil spill that devastated the west coast of South Korea.

Samsung Heavy Industries and two tugs captains, one of which was jailed for three years and the other who received a 12 month sentence, will also be tried again.

The 1993-built Hebei Spirit was at anchor waiting for a berth when a drifting crane barge, Samsung No 1, smashed into the side of the very large crude carrier, holing three cargo tanks after the barge broke its tow in stormy weather.

About 10,500 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea, destroying fish farms and the region’s tourism industry.



Ongoing ordeal takes its toll on Hebei Spirit pair

Despite being cleared of charges relating to South Korea’s worst oil spill, the tanker’s master and chief officer have not secured their liberty

Keith Wallis, 18 July 2008 Lloyds List

ANGER, fear, depression and frustration are among the gamut of emotions Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan have felt over the last eight months, since Hebei Spirit was holed by a drifting crane barge. But the emotional rollercoaster has been particularly harder to endure since both men were cleared on June 23 of all charges related to South Korea’s worst oil spill.

While the two Indian nationals were exonerated, they have still been unable to return home pending a retrial that is expected to take place early next year. And while Korean lawyers and Skuld, the Hebei Spirit’s P&I club, try to persuade South Korea prosecutors to accept a bond that would bail the men until the retrial takes place, the men languish.

During an exclusive interview with Lloyd’s List in Seoul, Capt Chawla said that when he goes for a walk and reaches a road junction he no longer feels a clear decisiveness over which way to go. Both men agree their lives have been put on hold, like someone has pressed the pause button on a DVD player, until either the South Korean legal processes have been completed or prosecutors accept a bond. Either situation would allow them home.

In the meantime Capt Chawla, 39, who joined V.Ships as a cadet in 1991, is unsure if he will return to sea. “I don’t want to see a ship again,” he said. Explaining further, he said the legal process, where every decision he took before and after the incident was rerun in hours of questioning and dissected in minute detail in the courtroom has left him unsure of command.

If he was to return to the bridge, he feels that any future decisions he takes will be coloured by this experience. Consequently, he will make decisions based on how he thinks they will be interpreted rather than “just doing what I thought was right”.

That said, Capt Chawla is adamant he took the right action and would have “done the same thing again. There is nothing I could think of that I did wrong. The biggest achievement is there were no casualties and 25 people are home.”

Meanwhile, Mr Chetan, 33, with only five months of seatime left before the accident, is anxious to return to sea to obtain his master’s ticket, albeit after a suitable break at home.

It is little wonder that both men feel they are being criminalised for an incident in which they and the ship were innocent bystanders. And it is a situation that has influenced their advice to others planning a seafaring career.

Capt Chawla said that before the accident he would have advised anybody, including his own son, to look at all job options including a seafaring career.

“Now I would discourage them from seafaring,” he said.

The emotional and practical toll has been especially hard when it comes to their families. As Capt Chawla explained: “The families are facing a lot of stress. I don’t tell them everything and they don’t tell me. Until I go back we don’t know what we’ve gone through.”

He pointed out that not only is his grandmother very ill, but his enforced separation is also affecting his children’s education.

Capt Chawla’s seven-year-old son will soon have to be admitted to a new school. But his inability to be present during the school’s interview process, which starts next month, could have a negative effect on his son’s chances of joining his preferred school. “It shows the father doesn’t care. It’s not considered very good.”

To support his view, he related the story of his brother-in-law who also couldn’t attend his son’s school interviews. The son was later refused admission.

For Mr Chetan the separation from his young family is hard to bear, especially after the district court hearing. “I missed my son’s first birthday, which I’m not very happy about,” he said. His son’s birthday was on July 2, nine days after both men were cleared and supposed to be free.

It is this inability to return home after apparently being freed that has puzzled friends and extended family at home. Mr Chetan said people don’t really understand how “we’ve been found innocent, but have not come back”.

For Capt Chawla, the enforced stay in South Korea would give some people at home in India the idea that they were guilty after all, a move that he thought would make his life at home untenable.

“It is a very closed society. Once your reputation is gone that is the end of it. It was very depressing — very early on I thought maybe my parents wouldn’t want to see me,” he said.

Both families have visited the two men, but with their continuing lives in India to consider they have been unable to stay for long. As a result, Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan have had to largely look after themselves with the support of ship management company V.Ships and Ince & Co marine manager Clive Reed, who has counselled and advised the men.

V.Ships found a serviced apartment in the centre of Seoul for each man immediately after the incident occurred on December 7. But as Mr Chetan wrily admitted they have had to feed themselves and while they have visited local shops “having the ingredients but not being able to cook doesn’t get you very far”.

Overall, Capt Chawla said V.Ships has looked after them well. “V.Ships has shown us very good support. They thanked the full crew and me for what we’ve done.”Support has come from other seafarers in messages and telephone calls including several of Capt Chawla’s juniors. Perhaps surprisingly support has also come from local people.

Capt Chawla admitted to feeling scared when he and Mr Chetan first went to court, but was buoyed by the support shown both inside and outside the court by local people. He displayed a drawing done by a local fisherman showing a turbaned Capt Chawla with two legal representatives. It contained a message wishing the master success and happiness to his family. The fisherman even included his telephone number.

Capt Chawla said other South Korean people had likened the incident to a collision involving a car parked in a car park and the driver of the parked car being prosecuted.

Mr Chetan said a banner was even unfurled by local people outside court expressing their support for the two seafarers. “People have been very nice.”

Even the marine police expressed their support and thought the two Hebei Spirit officers were innocent, but added “this is Korean law”.

Capt Chawla said: “Everyone is doing their job, even the prosecutors, so you can’t blame them.”

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Postby JK » Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:03 pm

Excellent thought, Martin

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Consensus on criminality

Postby The Dieselduck » Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:02 pm

Consensus on criminality
1 August 2008 Lloyds List

SHIPS’ officers are not the most militant of people. Driven by duty and steeped in responsibility from their cadet days, they are folk who think of the ship first and themselves second.

But there has never been a time when ships’ officers have been so universally furious at the way they are treated by a society that appears not to have a clue about their profession. There was widespread disgust at the treatment by the so-called civilised nations of France and Spain of the masters of the Erika and Prestige after the loss of their ships and their efforts to save them and to preserve their crews.

The utterly disgraceful behaviour of the Pakistan authorities when the Tasman Spirit grounded in Karachi did nothing to mitigate the view among seafarers that they were legitimate targets for both politicians and officials trying to deflect blame. Coming after the farce of the NissosAmorgos, where a tanker master was held hostage in Venezuela for more than a year, mariners should not have been surprised at the frequent incidents in which authorities appeared anxious to criminalise shipmasters involved in pollution incidents.

The enthusiasm in a supposedly liberal Europe to ensure that criminal sanctions are available to governments when there is an accidental spillage of oil made the direction of the legal wind amply clear.

Two notable cases have, however, consolidated professional disgust at the treatment of seafarers at the hands of law enforcement agencies. The Greek authorities’ treatment of Kristo Laptalo, the Croatian master of the Coral Sea, which was used to transport drugs within a banana cargo, has encouraged seafarers’ bodies to cry that “enough is enough”.

The treatment by the South Korean judiciary of the master and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit, whose excellent seamanship was apparent to any professional, has caused international abhorrence.

It is no idle threat. Unless seafarers are treated better than they are today, no sensible person will seek a sea career. There is a choice to be made and if society values professional seafarers, it had better make the right one.





Protestors demand release of Hebei two



David Osler



1 August 2008 Lloyds List



INDIAN seafarer trade unionists yesterday picketed the offices of the country’s Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai, to demand the release of Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, the two officers detained in South Korea since last December over the Hebei Spirit incident, writes David Osler.

The National Union of Seafarers of India and the Maritime Union of India said in a statement: “This is unfair, unjustified and a violation of basic rights of a seafarer and in contravention of established international principles of fair treatment to seafarers in case of accident.”

A petition bearing thousands of signatures was handed over to the director, with the request that the matter be raised with both the International Maritime Organization and the South Korean authorities.

A delegation from the Indian shipping sector has also met with a Korean consular official to discuss the case.

Meanwhile, it has emerged in London that David Cockroft, head of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, is today set to meet the prisoners in South Korea.

Mr Cockroft is currently in the Far East anyway, but the trip to Seoul has been added expressly for the purpose of supporting Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan, a chief officer.

Hebei Spirit, a 260,000 dwt VLCC, was struck by a crane-carrying barge while at anchor in Daesan last December, causing punctures to the hull and an oil spill. Supporters of the detainees argue that they are being victimised for a casualty for which they do not bear responsibility.

Mr Cockroft commented: “The Hebei Spirit spill was, and is, a desperately serious matter for those affected, including thousands of people living or working in the area. They need compensation and help, and we can only hope to understand their shock and outrage at the severe and unexpected damage to their lands and livelihood.

“The desire to prevent such an accident occurring again is praiseworthy and doubtless motivated by the best intentions. However, two men who have already been found innocent of involvement have been caught up in that effort and it is time to stand back, reconsider and then release them.”

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Fleet Management indicted by grand jury over Cosco Busan

Postby The Dieselduck » Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:05 pm

Fleet Management indicted by grand jury over Cosco Busan
Company charged on six felony counts and pilot of ship is also indicted on environmental crimes
Keith Wallis, 25 July 2008 Lloyds List

FLEET Management, the Hong Kong-based shipmanagement company, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco for negligently causing an oil spill and falsifying documents related to the Cosco Busan incident in California last November.

John Cota, the California pilot on board the Cosco Busan at the time, has also been indicted for environmental crimes.

The US Justice Department charged Fleet Management on Wednesday with six felony counts for making false statements and obstructing justice. This followed the incident in San Francisco Bay on November 7, when the 2001-built, 68,086 dwt Cosco Busan smashed into the fender system protecting the Bay Bridge.

“According to the indictment, Fleet Management, acting through senior ship officers and shore-based supervisory officials, concealed and covered-up documents with an intent to impede, obstruct and influence the investigation of the spill,” the department said.

The falsified documents include a fictitious passage plan for November 7 as well as two prior voyages made after Fleet assumed management of the vessel in October 2007.

“Fleet’s safety procedures, required by US law, mandated berth-to-berth passage plans for each voyage. However, according to the indictment, Fleet created falsified plans after the crash and concealed and covered up the real ship records,” the department added.

Fleet Management said it did “not believe that these new facts have any bearing on the accident or on the pilot's navigation of the ship”.

Company spokesman Ferdi Stolzenberg told Lloyd’s List that some discrepancies were found during Fleet’s own investigation into the accident and these were discussed and brought to the attention of the US Coast Guard and justice department before the indictment. He described the latest indictment as “a known event”.

He said Fleet had suspended two superintendents who were on board the boxship pending the outcome of the investigation.

Mr Stolzenberg told Lloyd’s List that one of the superintendents, together with a chief engineer, had gone on board to familiarise themselves with the vessel about a month before Fleet took over management of the ship on October 24. He said the second superintendent went on board with the rest of the crew on October 24. The two superintendents were carrying on-board training during its passage from Pusan to the US.

This is the second time Fleet Management has been accused by US officials of falsifying records and obstructing an investigation. The company and two crew were indicted last year over the 9,867 dwt refrigerated container ship Valparaiso Star.

The US attorney’s office in Philadelphia indicted Fleet Management, master Parag Raj Grewal and chief engineer Yevgen Dyachenko in May 2007 on six counts for conspiracy to conceal illegal discharges of oily-based waste, including oil-contaminated sludge, from the Valparaiso Star. “The indictment also alleges that the ship’s management company and captain obstructed the investigation by attempting to influence witness testimony,” said US attorney Pat Meehan.

The latest grand jury’s indictment related to the Cosco Busan has also charged Fleet Management with misdemeanour crimes for violating the US clean waters act and breaking the migratory bird treaty act after fuel oil leaked from the damaged boxship. About 2,000 birds died, including brown pelicans, marbled murrelets and western grebes, as a result of oil spill.

The indictment said Mr Cota and Fleet were both responsible for negligently causing the discharge of about 50,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil from the ship following a litany of errors. These include a failure “to stay on a collision free course, failed to prepare and review an adequate passage plan before departure, departed in heavy fog, proceeded at an unsafe speed despite limited visibility, failed to use the vessel’s radar on the final approach, failed to operate properly the vessel’s electronic chart system, as well as other navigational errors”.

Fleet Management has also been charged with negligence for failing to adequately train the new crew that it had placed on the ship and failing to post an adequate lookout.

“According to the indictment, these failures led to the Cosco Busan striking the bridge and discharging oil into San Francisco Bay,” the justice department added.

Mr Cota is also charged with making false statements to the US Coast Guard in 2006 and 2007 concerning his medications and medical conditions.

Jeff Bornstein, a lawyer for Mr Cota, told Associated Press that the new charges bolster Mr Cota’s contention that “this was a series of errors that involved other people and other factors”.

Fleet Management faces a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine for each of the six charges or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offence. The maximum penalty violating the clean waters act is a fine of $200,000 or twice the gross gain or loss and a $10,000 fine or twice the losses for breaking the migratory bird act.

At least seven state and federal agencies are probing the Cosco Busan collision including the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Safety Transportation Board and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Industry condemns Hebei Spirit detentions

Postby The Dieselduck » Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:06 pm

Industry condemns Hebei Spirit detentions
23 July 2008 Lloyds List

SHIPPING industry associations have joined a maritime union and the International Group of P&I Clubs in issuing a “vigorous joint protest” at the continued detention of Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, master and chief officer respectively of the tanker Hebei Spirit, writes Neville Smith.

The Round Table, comprising the International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO, the International Shipping Federation, Intercargo and Intertanko, has joined the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Hong Kong Shipowners Association to send the statement to the South Korean ambassador in London, the Indian ambassador in Seoul and South Korea’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization.

A separate statement was issued by shipmanagers’ association Intermanager, also condemning the detention.

Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan have been detained despite having been found innocent of violating pollution laws. Theymay have to stay in South Korea for another year until the appeals process is complete.

The joint statement conveys “surprise, disappointment and great concern” at the news reported in Lloyd’s List last week that the pair face up to another year in the country.

“Such measures appear to be unjustified, unreasonable and in contravention of the men’s rights. We strongly believe they should be permitted to leave the country,” the statement said.

Intermanager president Ole Stene added that “yet again we see our highly professional and valued seafarers singled out for appalling treatment.

“Would the airline industry accept this? I think not.”

Two South Korean tugmasters have already been jailed for their part in the spill of 10,500 tonnes of oil.

Mr Stene noted the pair had the full support of the ship’s manager V.Ships, and of other seafarers.

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P&I Clubs ready to rebel over burden of legislation

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:37 am

This is kinda funny... I wonder what seafarers are suppose to feel like.

Martin


P&I Clubs ready to rebel over burden of legislation
Jon Guy, 12 August 2008 Lloyds List

REGULATORS have been warned that shipowners and P&I clubs will not accept the unchecked “erosion” of their rights under a constant stream of new legislation, writes Jon Guy.

In the 2008 management report of the North of England Club, chairman Albert Engelsman said the level of “convention creep” was testing the clubs and owners to their limits and unless the brakes were applied, the time is approaching when the owners and clubs would take a stand.

“There is increasing pressure on shipowners in terms of claims liabilities, regulations and conventions,” he said. “This convention creep pushes more and more liabilities onto shipowners.

“The general expectation among authorities and regulators appears to be that shipping and its insurers will just accept the increased liabilities. It is often unreasonably assumed that P&I clubs will take on board liability for areas which would almost certainly be excluded from cover elsewhere — nuclear and terrorism threats are two examples.”

Mr Engelsman added: “The criminalisation of seafarers, the implications of UNCITRAL and the upcoming Bunker Convention — all of these and more are seriously eroding shipowners’ traditional limits of liability.

“Shipowners have so far accepted that this barrage of legislation is testimony to their resilience. We have accepted this latest burden but legislators should not expect us to continue to accept such erosions of our position.

“It is time for shipowners to work more closely to improve the image of our industry and stand up for what we believe in.”

Mr Engelsman said that the booming newbuilding sector was also coming under pressure and warned that the club had noticed a rise in the number of yards cancelling contracts in favour of better-paid orders, looking to renegotiate their agreed price of the vessel citing rising steel costs, and attempting to reschedule delivery dates as the pressure on global shipbuilding capacity increases.

He said the club had seen a substantial rise in the number of inquiries and level of concern from members over the existing newbuilding contracts with yards.

“Steel prices and the significant number of newbuilding orders placed in the past few years have had a serious impact on the ability of some yards to meet their obligations,” added Mr Engelsman.

“A number of newbuilding contracts have been cancelled and in a number of instances yards have attempted to renegotiate the purchase price and/or the delivery date. The rate of newbuilding orders and deliveries continues at a frantic pace and we expect that such problems will continue and indeed may worsen over the next few years.”

He warned that the club, like its peers, continued to be affected by the cost of pool claims, which accounted for 7.5% of the club’s 17.5% general increase for 2008. He said that if international group claims continued at present rates, premiums would have to rise.

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The case for fairness

Postby The Dieselduck » Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:07 am

The case for fairness
26 August 2008 Lloyds List

HE IS the driver, the progress chaser, the trouble-shooter, the fixer of intractable problems. His attitude and ability will affect the efficiency of the ship, and whether it is a happy place in which the crew can work. His decisions can mean the difference between life and death for all aboard, his skill, judgement and experience can change a commercial disaster into a success, or vice versa.

His legal responsibilities stretch back to the middle ages, even though his technical skills are those of the 21st century. He is the man on the receiving end of emails sent from charterer’s offices by spotty clerks whose manners are lacking and who have yet to learn about time-zones, demanding instant answers to damn-fool questions.

He is the person all the shoreside officials target as soon as the ship gets alongside, soliciting answers to their questions, large quantities of paper and — in some parts of the world — the odd carton of Lucky Strike, bottle of Black Label or wodge of dollar bills to oil the system, ensure co-operation, or stave off arrest.

He is the master and the man who carries the can, but in too many jurisdictions, he is the subject of criminal action after an incident.

In July 2006, after some very long discussions and in the wake of some notably nasty cases in which surviving shipmasters from wrecked ships were persecuted and prosecuted by the authorities in so-called civilised countries, there was some long hoped-for action.

The International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organisation produced their Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident. They were only guidelines and were in no way mandatory, but they were better than nothing, and were designed to do something to intervene in the increasingly unpleasant judicial cases where seafarers (and mostly the master) were being routinely arrested and held for long periods after operational incidents and accidents.

There is nothing particularly new about masters being badly treated by the authorities. Whereas in some enlightened countries the master who lost a ship might be treated with humanity, or subjected only to professional sanctions, in others the full force of criminal law would descend upon his head.

In the event that lives were lost, many countries would almost automatically jail the master, regardless of fault, on the specious grounds that society demanded such a punishment. It sort of went with the job, like it or not. I never forget a much admired master telling me, with all seriousness as we drank our 8-12 mugs of cocoa one evening, that if he ever lost a ship, he would make sure he went down in her.

The IMO/ILO guidelines came after a rather long list of high-profile marine accidents that served to highlight the injustices which were often perpetrated on shipmasters, who really bore little responsibility for an accident, other than they were in charge of a ship that was involved.

Each individual case is unique. Sometimes masters had made mistakes, as in the case of those whose decisions led to collisions or grounding. Often they had pilots aboard, or were involved in accidents caused by the structural or mechanical failures of the ships they commanded. They were caught up in pollution incidents, where people aboard their ships had themselves made mistakes, or wilfully took short cuts, ‘marine accidents’ taking many forms.

Criminal sanctions are no longer confined to traditionally illiberal countries, but are spreading around the world as the demand for accountability and blame for unforeseen events is transmitted like a contagious virus.

Masters and other senior officers are given criminal sanctions, with long periods of confinement and tough jail sentences after trials, which demonstrates the zeal of the authorities for protecting the environment. And it might be a cynical observation, but because nine times out of 10 the prosecuted master is foreign, there will probably be no backlash in support of his case.

A further cause for concern is that the criminal case against the ships’ officers will, in many countries, double up as the only ‘inquiry’ into the incident. This is most unsatisfactory, cutting across the latest thinking contained in the Code of International Standards and Recommended Practices for Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident, which stresses that the prime requirement of any investigation is to discover the chain of events which led to the accident and, by promulgating this information, to prevent repetition.

It is the proliferation of criminal sanctions in the event of marine accidents which led to pressure from bodies such as the International Federation of Ship Masters’ Associations and a number of seafaring unions to produce the IMO/ILO guidelines on fair treatment. It came after lengthy detentions of shipmasters in cases such as the Nissos Amorgos incident, a grounding causing pollution in the Maracaibo Channel, where any professional with an ounce of common sense would have doubted the responsibility of the master.

There was the quasi-political case of the Tasman Spirit, which grounded and broke up in the approaches to the Port of Karachi, with the ship’s senior officers and a salvage master detained for months. A notably unfortunate affair involved the Russian officers of the tanker Virgo, which was alleged to have run down a US fishing boat, and who similarly were prevented from leaving Canada for many months.

There was the scandal of the Erika and her master, who was only released from a French prison after the intervention at the highest level of the Mission to Seafarers chaplain in Dunkirk. And there was the lengthy ordeal of Captain Mangouras of the Prestige, an elderly master whose attempts to save his ship were frustrated by the obduracy of the Spanish authorities.

There was also a strong sense of injustice about the way in which masters were being prosecuted and persecuted in the event of alleged pollution incidents. There was a rash of incidents off the French coast, for example, where the burden of proof that a ship was polluting seemed to depend entirely on dubious aerial photographs.

These cases, heard before magistrates whose expertise and judgement in marine matters were greatly limited, achieved considerable notoriety, with enormous fines levied and reputations ruined by virtue of the criminal records. It was as if the master had been wholly responsible for personally directing the pollution, which was outrageously unfair. Indeed, in one case, the company was able to demonstrate that the ship had been steaming through a wind-rode slick at right angles to the direction of travel. This had no effect upon the magistrates.

Is there any sense that the IMO/ILO guidelines are having any effect upon the incidence of downright unfair treatment of seafarers?

There are a number of recent and current cases that seem to suggest that the guidelines are not being employed to treat seafarers fairly.

The case of the master of the Zim Mexico III appeared notably harsh. He was detained in Mobile and subsequently convicted and sentenced, after his ship, with a pilot embarked, had knocked over a container crane upon which an engineer had been working without permission. But the master was charged under the ancient Seaman’s Manslaughter Act, which ought to be redundant, but which afforded him no protection.

There has been much written, in this newspaper and elsewhere, about the appalling plight of the master, chief officer and boatswain of the reefer Coral Sea, who languished in a Greek high-security prison after a consignment of drugs had been discovered in one of more than 100,000 boxes of bananas discharged at the port of Patras. The master was subsequently sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, while the chief officer (whose health is ruined) and the boatswain were acquitted.

And while Greek justice seems to deem it appropriate to arrest and detain the crew of a ship found carrying drugs, the trial of the 59-year-old master has been described as a disgrace, his position on board as “the man who carries the can” being the sole reason for his conviction, in the absence of any other meaningful evidence.

Judicial expert Edgar Gold, who has highlighted this particular case in his recent writings, has suggested that the IMO/ILO guidelines need to be broadened from their present definition of a ‘marine accident’ to take in the case of a master caught up in such a plight as has ruined the long and distinguished career of the Coral Sea master.

The case of the Cosco Busan, which has resulted in six of the containership’s crew being unable to leave the US for the past eight months, is a further illustration of the way in which the guidelines have been ignored.

Perhaps the most notorious of all is the thoroughly unjustified detention of the master and chief officer of the VLCC Hebei Spirit, found innocent of any blame after their anchored ship had been hit by a runaway crane barge, but unable to leave Korea and resume their careers, pending appeal and supreme court hearings which may take years.

It seems precisely this sort of case that the guidelines are designed to assist, but which are so evidently being ignored, despite international protests and diplomatic appeals.

Fear that the release of witnesses will mean that they will leave the jurisdiction and never return is usually cited in these cases as an excuse for the detention of witnesses. The fact that the expectation among foreign seamen of fair treatment is not exactly sky high, ought perhaps to be counted in their favour. They are not mistaken in their beliefs.

Nevertheless, if flag states can co-operate, arrangements can be made to repatriate seafarers pending the case coming to court. The present system, where seafarers are virtual hostages, cannot remain unchanged.

Is it possible to stiffen up the guidelines so that governments and judicial bodies take them seriously? It is important that there is some action here, because the unfairness of so many of these cases is having a corrosive effect throughout the shipping industry.

Seafarers believe that, at best, they will be in receipt of “second-class justice” should they become involved in any form of accident or incident. There is any amount of evidence to back up this supposition. They are not altogether isolated from life ashore, they know about these injustices and they have a declining confidence in any form of fair treatment.

Seafarers are treated as second-class citizens by officials in too many ports. They are denied the human rights which people ashore take for granted, outside the fortified areas which ports have become. They are, in short, treated with no respect at all, despite the utterly essential job they do.

Why on earth would anyone wish to be a shipmaster, to be treated like this? Why be a seafarer, a member of such a disrespected society? These are questions which society had better answer — and fast.

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More Hebei Spirit fiasco stories

Postby The Dieselduck » Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:04 pm

South Korea collusion charge
Hebei Spirit manager claims maritime officials and prosecutors working together to prove case
Keith Wallis. 26 September 2008 Lloyds List

SOUTH Korean maritime officials, prosecutors and lawyers working for Samsung Heavy Industries have been accused of colluding in the retrial of two senior officers involved in South Korea’s worst oil spill.

V.Ships president Roberto Giorgi told Lloyd’s List that the Korean side was giving information to court to “prove a case that is not really there”.

He cited the example of an accident report lodged by the Korea Maritime Safety Tribunal, which uses hindsight to partially blame the master and chief officer of the very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit for the December 7 accident.

Speaking from Seoul where he met and offered support to the vessel’s master,Jasprit Chawla, chief officer Syam Chetan and their families, Mr Giorgi saidthe report was “not balanced” and “unfair”.

He said the document was based on the crew of the tanker “predicting the future”.

“The captain could not foresee that the tow wire was going to break,” Mr Giorgi said.

This was a reference to the crane barge that broke its tow with one of two tugs and smashed into the side of the fully-loaded Hebei Spirit, which was at anchor.

The collision holed three of the tanker’s cargo holds spilling more than 10,500 tonnes of oil about 100km southwest of Seoul. The crane barge and tugs were operated by Samsung Heavy Industries.

Capt Chawla, Mr Chetan and Hebei Spirit Shipping were acquitted on June 23 of all charges related to the oil spill, but the two officers have been prevented from leaving Korea pending appeal by prosecutors.

The first stage of the appeal, a retrial in South Korea’s high court, began at the start of this month, although the court has so far only sat sporadically.

The trial judge is expected to give a judgment on December 23, but depending on the outcome prosecutors could appeal to South Korea’s supreme court.

The tribunal’s report said the tanker’s crew should have done more to prevent the accident without specifying what action could have been done.

The report also finds the master and chief officer were negligent in exactly the same manner that was alleged by prosecutors and Samsung when they made their appeal.

“I think there was some consultation between Samsung, prosecutors and the people that put together the report,” Mr Giorgi said.

None of the evidence submitted to the tribunal by lawyers acting on behalf of thee crew and the shipping company have been considered in the report.

Neither has Hong Kong’s Marine Department, as the Hebei Spirit’s flag state, been given copies of the tribunal’s report.

Under International Maritime Organization rules, flag states, ship owners and other interested parties must be given the opportunity to comment on official draft accident reports before a final version is published.

Consequently, “I really hope the judge understands” the tribunal’s report has no credible basis, Mr Giorgi said.

Marine Department accident investigator Stephen Li confirmed that the department had neither been consulted or received a copy of the report.

Instead, he thought the document being referred to in the high court was prepared by Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal for the Korea tribunal for domestic consumption and was not an official accident investigation report.

Mr Li said the department had completed its own report, which it had circulated, but no response had been received from the Korea Maritime Safety Tribunal or Samsung.

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The case for fairness

Postby The Dieselduck » Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:05 pm

The case for fairness
26 August 2008, Lloyds List

HE IS the driver, the progress chaser, the trouble-shooter, the fixer of intractable problems. His attitude and ability will affect the efficiency of the ship, and whether it is a happy place in which the crew can work. His decisions can mean the difference between life and death for all aboard, his skill, judgement and experience can change a commercial disaster into a success, or vice versa.

His legal responsibilities stretch back to the middle ages, even though his technical skills are those of the 21st century. He is the man on the receiving end of emails sent from charterer’s offices by spotty clerks whose manners are lacking and who have yet to learn about time-zones, demanding instant answers to damn-fool questions.

He is the person all the shoreside officials target as soon as the ship gets alongside, soliciting answers to their questions, large quantities of paper and — in some parts of the world — the odd carton of Lucky Strike, bottle of Black Label or wodge of dollar bills to oil the system, ensure co-operation, or stave off arrest.

He is the master and the man who carries the can, but in too many jurisdictions, he is the subject of criminal action after an incident.

In July 2006, after some very long discussions and in the wake of some notably nasty cases in which surviving shipmasters from wrecked ships were persecuted and prosecuted by the authorities in so-called civilised countries, there was some long hoped-for action.

The International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organisation produced their Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident. They were only guidelines and were in no way mandatory, but they were better than nothing, and were designed to do something to intervene in the increasingly unpleasant judicial cases where seafarers (and mostly the master) were being routinely arrested and held for long periods after operational incidents and accidents.

There is nothing particularly new about masters being badly treated by the authorities. Whereas in some enlightened countries the master who lost a ship might be treated with humanity, or subjected only to professional sanctions, in others the full force of criminal law would descend upon his head.

In the event that lives were lost, many countries would almost automatically jail the master, regardless of fault, on the specious grounds that society demanded such a punishment. It sort of went with the job, like it or not. I never forget a much admired master telling me, with all seriousness as we drank our 8-12 mugs of cocoa one evening, that if he ever lost a ship, he would make sure he went down in her.

The IMO/ILO guidelines came after a rather long list of high-profile marine accidents that served to highlight the injustices which were often perpetrated on shipmasters, who really bore little responsibility for an accident, other than they were in charge of a ship that was involved.

Each individual case is unique. Sometimes masters had made mistakes, as in the case of those whose decisions led to collisions or grounding. Often they had pilots aboard, or were involved in accidents caused by the structural or mechanical failures of the ships they commanded. They were caught up in pollution incidents, where people aboard their ships had themselves made mistakes, or wilfully took short cuts, ‘marine accidents’ taking many forms.

Criminal sanctions are no longer confined to traditionally illiberal countries, but are spreading around the world as the demand for accountability and blame for unforeseen events is transmitted like a contagious virus.

Masters and other senior officers are given criminal sanctions, with long periods of confinement and tough jail sentences after trials, which demonstrates the zeal of the authorities for protecting the environment. And it might be a cynical observation, but because nine times out of 10 the prosecuted master is foreign, there will probably be no backlash in support of his case.

A further cause for concern is that the criminal case against the ships’ officers will, in many countries, double up as the only ‘inquiry’ into the incident. This is most unsatisfactory, cutting across the latest thinking contained in the Code of International Standards and Recommended Practices for Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident, which stresses that the prime requirement of any investigation is to discover the chain of events which led to the accident and, by promulgating this information, to prevent repetition.

It is the proliferation of criminal sanctions in the event of marine accidents which led to pressure from bodies such as the International Federation of Ship Masters’ Associations and a number of seafaring unions to produce the IMO/ILO guidelines on fair treatment. It came after lengthy detentions of shipmasters in cases such as the Nissos Amorgos incident, a grounding causing pollution in the Maracaibo Channel, where any professional with an ounce of common sense would have doubted the responsibility of the master.

There was the quasi-political case of the Tasman Spirit, which grounded and broke up in the approaches to the Port of Karachi, with the ship’s senior officers and a salvage master detained for months. A notably unfortunate affair involved the Russian officers of the tanker Virgo, which was alleged to have run down a US fishing boat, and who similarly were prevented from leaving Canada for many months.

There was the scandal of the Erika and her master, who was only released from a French prison after the intervention at the highest level of the Mission to Seafarers chaplain in Dunkirk. And there was the lengthy ordeal of Captain Mangouras of the Prestige, an elderly master whose attempts to save his ship were frustrated by the obduracy of the Spanish authorities.

There was also a strong sense of injustice about the way in which masters were being prosecuted and persecuted in the event of alleged pollution incidents. There was a rash of incidents off the French coast, for example, where the burden of proof that a ship was polluting seemed to depend entirely on dubious aerial photographs.

These cases, heard before magistrates whose expertise and judgement in marine matters were greatly limited, achieved considerable notoriety, with enormous fines levied and reputations ruined by virtue of the criminal records. It was as if the master had been wholly responsible for personally directing the pollution, which was outrageously unfair. Indeed, in one case, the company was able to demonstrate that the ship had been steaming through a wind-rode slick at right angles to the direction of travel. This had no effect upon the magistrates.

Is there any sense that the IMO/ILO guidelines are having any effect upon the incidence of downright unfair treatment of seafarers?

There are a number of recent and current cases that seem to suggest that the guidelines are not being employed to treat seafarers fairly.

The case of the master of the Zim Mexico III appeared notably harsh. He was detained in Mobile and subsequently convicted and sentenced, after his ship, with a pilot embarked, had knocked over a container crane upon which an engineer had been working without permission. But the master was charged under the ancient Seaman’s Manslaughter Act, which ought to be redundant, but which afforded him no protection.

There has been much written, in this newspaper and elsewhere, about the appalling plight of the master, chief officer and boatswain of the reefer Coral Sea, who languished in a Greek high-security prison after a consignment of drugs had been discovered in one of more than 100,000 boxes of bananas discharged at the port of Patras. The master was subsequently sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, while the chief officer (whose health is ruined) and the boatswain were acquitted.

And while Greek justice seems to deem it appropriate to arrest and detain the crew of a ship found carrying drugs, the trial of the 59-year-old master has been described as a disgrace, his position on board as “the man who carries the can” being the sole reason for his conviction, in the absence of any other meaningful evidence.

Judicial expert Edgar Gold, who has highlighted this particular case in his recent writings, has suggested that the IMO/ILO guidelines need to be broadened from their present definition of a ‘marine accident’ to take in the case of a master caught up in such a plight as has ruined the long and distinguished career of the Coral Sea master.

The case of the Cosco Busan, which has resulted in six of the containership’s crew being unable to leave the US for the past eight months, is a further illustration of the way in which the guidelines have been ignored.

Perhaps the most notorious of all is the thoroughly unjustified detention of the master and chief officer of the VLCC Hebei Spirit, found innocent of any blame after their anchored ship had been hit by a runaway crane barge, but unable to leave Korea and resume their careers, pending appeal and supreme court hearings which may take years.

It seems precisely this sort of case that the guidelines are designed to assist, but which are so evidently being ignored, despite international protests and diplomatic appeals.

Fear that the release of witnesses will mean that they will leave the jurisdiction and never return is usually cited in these cases as an excuse for the detention of witnesses. The fact that the expectation among foreign seamen of fair treatment is not exactly sky high, ought perhaps to be counted in their favour. They are not mistaken in their beliefs.

Nevertheless, if flag states can co-operate, arrangements can be made to repatriate seafarers pending the case coming to court. The present system, where seafarers are virtual hostages, cannot remain unchanged.

Is it possible to stiffen up the guidelines so that governments and judicial bodies take them seriously? It is important that there is some action here, because the unfairness of so many of these cases is having a corrosive effect throughout the shipping industry.

Seafarers believe that, at best, they will be in receipt of “second-class justice” should they become involved in any form of accident or incident. There is any amount of evidence to back up this supposition. They are not altogether isolated from life ashore, they know about these injustices and they have a declining confidence in any form of fair treatment.

Seafarers are treated as second-class citizens by officials in too many ports. They are denied the human rights which people ashore take for granted, outside the fortified areas which ports have become. They are, in short, treated with no respect at all, despite the utterly essential job they do.

Why on earth would anyone wish to be a shipmaster, to be treated like this? Why be a seafarer, a member of such a disrespected society? These are questions which society had better answer — and fast.

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Criminalisation: seafarers' bane and sea career deterren

Postby The Dieselduck » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:57 pm

Criminalisation: seafarers' bane and sea career deterrent

Singapore Shipping Association president SS Teo says the Republic must speak up strongly against this repugnant practice
THE increasing trend to 'criminalise' seafarers around the world has gone to the top of the list of shipping industry concerns in recent months.
Disappointingly, the criminalisation of seafarers is prevalent in some developed nations with mature and independent legal systems, not just in countries of the developing world.

There is increasing evidence to show that seafarers going about the course of their daily duty run the risk of being arrested, charged with criminal offences and even jailed for long periods of time.

The matter of the master and chief officer of the oil tanker Hebei Spirit in South Korea is a case in point.

Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan were cleared by a lower court in South Korea after they were charged with various criminal acts arising from an incident in December 2007 when their vessel was struck by a barge while anchored off South Korea.
Despite being acquitted by a lower court, both officers are currently unable to leave South Korea while prosecuting officers push for a retrial.

The pair are still in effect detained in South Korea against their will despite numerous protests from international shipping groups including the Asian Shipowners Forum.

Other cases are even more alarming and it is true to say that the life of the seafarer - at both officer and crew level - is getting harder as a result.

Of equal concern to the wider shipping community is the effect criminalisation has on the overall public perception of the shipping industry and to young people seeking careers in the industry in particular.

Quite aside from facing isolation from friends and family for long periods and often working in challenging conditions, a young person considering a career at sea now has to think about the real threat of being arrested, harassed and intimidated each time he steps ashore.

It's hardly the greatest incentive to choose a life at sea.

I believe this worrying trend is deeply disturbing to everyone with a stake in the shipping industry. I believe it is up to the entire industry to stand shoulder to shoulder and say this kind of treatment of seafarers is unacceptable and wrong.

It is important that the shipping industry takes a stand on this because we face large enough challenges in attracting the best young people into shipping quite aside from this kind of disincentive.

Disappointingly, the criminalisation of seafarers is prevalent in some developed nations with mature and independent legal systems, not just in countries of the developing world.

Too often in recent times, we have seen seafarers made scapegoats for politicians and political expediency. It seems that in some nations the arrest, public charging and resulting humiliation of a seafarer can have an effect on political opinion polls.

A recent report from Drewry, the respected international shipping consultants, says that the current officer shortfall across the global industry stands at 34,000.

Based on Drewry's fleet growth projections, the Drewry model - which assumes supply of tonnage will continue at the current pace (of course, it may not) - assesses the officer shortfall in 2012 to be 83,900, or a 12 per cent gap between supply and demand of officers.

When pictures of seafarers chained by the hands and feet being charged in court and thrown into jails increasingly flash across our screens in powerful images, how can we possibly even begin to address this shortfall in officers?

How does this impact Singapore and what can our shipping community do to stop the unnecessary mistreatment and criminalisation of seafarers?

Why is this issue so important to a nation which for various reasons now sends so few of our young people out to a career at sea?

Firstly, it is important that Singapore and our shipping community speak out against this unfair treatment of seafarers because it is our duty to do so as an aspiring international maritime centre (IMC).

If Singapore truly wishes to be the IMC that we all know it can be, then it is important that we as a maritime nation comply with our obligations under the international conventions and agreements to which we are a party - in particular, the United Nations' International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident.

Singapore has signed these conventions, so we should stand by them and we should call upon all other signatory nations to do the same.

Working with our authorities, it is important that Singapore acts as a role model in terms of the prosecution of seafarers. As a prominent member of the IMO governing council, we have to be seen to be supporting such measures.

If seafarers are arrested following incidents in our territorial waters, it is essential that we follow the IMO conventions; justice must be swift, transparent and, above all, fair.

If Singapore can be seen to be upholding these international conventions, then I believe this action will have a good long-term effect on how our young people view the shipping industry.

It remains true today that some of the brightest, most dynamic business leaders and owners in our industry come from seafaring backgrounds.

Seafaring gives natural leaders the chance to take tough decisions, to stand by those decisions and to lead by example - the very qualities that are so highly prized in any business environment.

A career at sea is no longer a lifetime option for most, but a grounding in seafaring is a wonderful start to any business career.

This is the message we want to give our young people considering a career in our industry. The overriding message for young people is that a career at sea is rewarding and can lead to a whole vista of future commercial and business opportunities.

Making criminals of seafarers is certainly not the way to achieve this goal.

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USCG Prosecution

Postby Madzng » Thu Oct 23, 2008 12:38 pm

USCG have for a very long time persicuted both the foreign seafarer, and the companies they work for. Looking for even the smallest of evidence that they mave have polluted, not only in American waters but anywhere in the world. Small descrepancies between records or tank contents can lead to very detailed examinations of a ship for any reason to fine, or detain it further.

Not sure if this has been placed on the forum already - apologies if it has.

If you have not seen this, or have already heard the judgement that was handed down, don't jump to the punch line!

David G. Williams, a Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and the Main Propulsion Assistant for the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court inHawaii to one count of making a false statement, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment & Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Edward H. Kubo Jr.

Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 8, 2007, for lying to investigators about his knowledge of the direct overboard discharge of bilge wastes through the ship's deep sink into the Honolulu Harbor. As the Main Propulsion Assistant, he oversaw the maintenance of the main diesel engines and other machinery in the engine room for the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, a 378 ft. high endurance cutter stationed inHonolulu.

"Today's guilty plea stands as notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the nation's environmental laws in an even-handed and thorough manner," said Assistant Attorney General Tenpas.

According to the plea agreement, on or about March 8, 2006, Williams had knowledge of the direct discharge of bilge wastes into Honolulu Harbor. The Engineering Department personnel engaged in an unusual and abnormal operation and configuration of engine room equipment to pump bilge wastes from the aft bilge to the deep sink and overboard into Honolulu Harbor, thereby bypassing the "oily water separator" (OWS) system. The OWS system is a pollution prevention control device used by high endurance Coast Guard cutters like the RUSH to manage accumulations of bilge wastes while underway at sea. The OWS system collects, stores and processes wastes to separate the water from the oil and other wastes.

On or about March 13, 2006, the State of Hawaii Department of Health received an anonymous complaint stating that U.S. Coast Guard Cutter RUSH crew members were ordered to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of bilge waste into Honolulu Harbor. On May 1, 2006, investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) received confirmation from Main Propulsion Division personnel who personally participated that bilge wastes had indeed been discharged through the deep sink and into Honolulu Harbor. CGIS investigators obtained various documents from the RUSH, including engineering and ship's logs, tank level sounding sheets, and a pneumatic pump.

When interviewed by investigators from the CGIS, Williams denied knowledge of personnel discharging bilge waste to the deep sink and stated that he was not aware of the pumping of bilge wastes to bypass the ship's OWS system.

Sentencing has been set for Aug. 19, 2008. Williams faces a statutory maximum of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, plus a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.

The government's investigation was initiated by the CGIS. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph A. Poux of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section; Ronald G. Johnson, chief of the Major Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William L. Shipley, both of the District ofHawaii; and Commander Timothy P. Connors of the Coast Guard.
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Williams was sentenced to pay a $5,000 fine, serve 200 hours of community service and serve two years of probation. What a joke! :x

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Re: Seafarer criminalization

Postby The Dieselduck » Thu Oct 23, 2008 5:36 pm

I wonder if the Justice Department will put the US Coast Guard under an fleet wide environmental microscope and "probation period", as it seems to be common for other ship operators, charged with these crimes. I wonder if they will pay fines for the action of their crew, put their fleet through an extensive policy shift, enhanced environmental awareness training and the whole other nine yards they seem to fit to others.

In typical US fashion, the whole mess is passed onto "a few bad apples", which in this case, is "one apple" and the sanctions seem pretty pitiful in contrast to other violators. I guess it comes down to a classic "do as I say, not as I do".
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US remains twitchy on shore leave

Postby The Dieselduck » Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:01 pm

Fairplay 24 October 2008



USCG seeks shore leave relief

EFFORTS by the US Coast Guard could improve US shore leave access, but questions linger on pending legislation designed to aid seafarers.

Speaking at the World Maritime Day conference in New York yesterday, Blank Rome partner Jeanne Grasso noted that language in two pending bills would require terminals to provide shore leave systems at no cost to seafarers.

But the language does not specify who would pay for shore-leave services: the terminal or the ship operator. “I don’t think this will be a cure-all,” she warned.

“We get it,” said USCG Rear Admiral Brian Salerno on shore leave concerns, stressing that the USCG is acutely aware of how demoralising lack of shore leave is for seafarers.

He revealed that the USCG issued a new directive yesterday to all field commanders to “vigorously engage [terminal] facilities that have not complied with the spirit of the regulation” by effectively denying shore leave. But the USCG does not believe it has the legal authority to force terminals to provide shore leave access “because that would essentially be taking private property, which violates the takings clause of the Constitution”, said Salerno.

He added that the USCG is working with the department of homeland security on the port security grants “to see if we can include criteria for facilities to apply for grant money to help enable seafarer access”.


US remains twitchy on shore leave

US OBJECTIONS to extending crew shore leave came to the fore at the World Maritime Day conference in New York.

Visa issues are the largest lead to the greatest number of shore leave denial, but high charges imposed by terminals are also a factor, the conference heard yesterday.

Joe Sanchez of Wilhelmsen Ships Service explained that some terminals in the northeast are charging $400-800 for escorted van services for crew transiting facility grounds.

Meanwhile, Gulf terminal operators are charging security fees for crew clearance before shore leave.

On the US West Coast, the issues centres on labour unions not wanting “non-affiliated individuals transiting the terminal unless they are escorted by labour”, Sanchez said. This “increases gang size due to addition of van drivers and security guards”.

Another complication for shore leave is the enforcement of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential system, which recently began in New England and will be rolled out nationwide over the coming months.

“Terminals are looking at changes that will be more restrictive,” reported Sanchez. “They haven’t stated that these will restrict crew access, but the assumption is that there will be increased van and security costs that will be passed on to the shipowners.”

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Prosecutors push for jail terms and fines in ‘Hebei Two’ ret

Postby The Dieselduck » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:45 am

Prosecutors push for jail terms and fines in ‘Hebei Two’ retrial
Korean high court verdict expected within a month
Keith Wallis, 13 November 2008 Lloyds List

PROSECUTORS have called for three-year jail sentences and fines of Won30m ($22,060) in the retrial of the ‘Hebei Two’, the master and chief officer of the very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit, which was involved in South Korea’s worst oil spill.

Similar sentences were recommended for the masters of the two tugs and the crane barge involved in the incident on December 7 last year.

Jasprit Chawla, master of the 268,605 dwt, 1993-built Hebei Spirit, chief officer Syam Chetan and the other defendants will hear their fate on December 10.

The recommendations were made at the end of the retrial on Tuesday. Prosecutors and defence lawyers can make written submissions over the next few weeks before a high court judge gives final verdicts.

Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan had already been cleared of all charges related to the oil spill in a district court case in June. At that time, prosecutors called for a three-year jail sentence for Capt Chawla and two years for Mr Chetan.

Under South Korean law, prosecutors were allowed an appeal to the country’s high court. A third and final appeal is possible to the country’s supreme court once the high court verdict is announced. But if Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan are jailed next month they will have to start their sentence pending the third hearing.

One tug master was jailed for three years for marine pollution offences at the district court hearing in June and fined Won5m for falsifying navigation records. The other tug master received a one-year jail sentence. The barge master was cleared.

Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan, who have been unable to leave South Korea since the incident, have been accused of marine pollution offences and failing to take sufficient action to prevent either the collision or to contain the resultant spill.

Prosecutors claimed that prompt action by the ship’s crew could have reduced the amount of oil that spilled into the sea off the west coast of Korea, near Taean, by more than 90%. But this is contested by V.Ships, technical manager of Hebei Spirit.

The collision occurred during severe weather, when the crane barge broke its tow to one of the tugs and smashed into the side of Hebei Spirit, which was at anchor, and holed three of the tanker’s cargo tanks. About 10,500 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea polluting a large swathe of coastline and causing economic losses totalling more than $500m.

Rejecting prosecutors’ claims that the Hebei Spirit crew could have done more to prevent the worsening spill, V.Ships said 40% of the oil was spilt in the first 30 minutes of the collision when cargo tank five was ruptured.

The casualty occurred around 0700 hrs during stormy conditions, and V.Ships spokesman Ferdi Stoltzenberg said the master’s first responsibility was to check that the crew were safe and discover whether the ship was in danger of sinking, which, given the conditions, took time to establish.

He said a 174-page report produced by the Korea Maritime Safety Tribunal, which prosecutors relied upon heavily during the retrial, contained “a lot of information that was wrong and cannot be substantiated”. Mr Stoltzenberg added that there were a number of points raised that “just don’t work”.

He said the report was not circulated to V.Ships, Capt Chawla, Mr Chetan or their defence team before the retrial, so a robust defence to the document was only now being prepared.


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