Seafarer criminalization

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Hebei Spirit officers sentenced

Postby The Dieselduck » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:47 am

Fairplay 11 November 2008
Hebei Spirit officers sentenced

SENTENCES and fines were handed down today in South Korea for the Hebei Spirit spill.

The tanker’s captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer-navigator Syam Chetan were both sentenced to three years in prison a fine of 30M won ($22,530). They had not been allowed to leave Korea pending the retrial.

The same fine was ordered for the ship’s owner Samsung HI, and masters of tugs and a crane barge involved in the casualty received the same jail sentence.

Prosecutors had shown that the spill around the resort island of Taean could have been contained to just 1,437 kilolitres, but 12,547 kilolitres leaked into the sea, mainly because the crew failed to react adequately for two and half hours after the collision.

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NEW FINDINGS have vindicated Louis Cruise Line

Postby The Dieselduck » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:33 pm

Yes, throw them in jail, throw all those lazy incompetent seafarers in jail for not following checklist and a multitude of regulations which caused pollution and carnage on the oceans of the world. That is the usual story. Once in a while, a glimmer of hope surfaces that its not always the seafarer that is to blame for accidents. In the story below, we see one example. Another might be the USCG, and its engineer dumping oily water while in port, in Hawaii, one has to wonder whether or not they will hold themselves equally accountable eager to prosecute as the seafarer they love to demonize. In the case of the US government we already know the answer to that.


Sunken Sea Diamond was given inaccurate map
By Jean Christou

NEW FINDINGS have vindicated Louis Cruise Line’s claim that a faulty undersea map caused cruise liner Sea Diamond to hit a reef and sink off Santorini last year, the company said yesterday.

In November last year, Louis said specialist company, Akti Engineering, provided a mapping of the area of the accident showing serious errors in the charts of the area.

The Louis-commissioned map was rubbished by the Greek authorities but a new survey was then carried out by the Hydrographic Office of the Hellenic Navy, which is the official government authority for conducting hydrographic surveys and issuing nautical charts in Greek waters.

“The new hydrographic survey of the area and its findings fully confirm those of Akti Engineering,” Louis said in a press statement.

It said the results of the soundings performed by the Hydrographic Office confirmed that the reef struck by the Sea Diamond was actually located 131 metres from the coastline, instead of only 57 metres “as was inaccurately marked on the official Hellenic Hydrographic Service nautical chart No. 423/8 with which all ships were equipped with.”

This caused the ship’s captain to miscalculate the real position of the reef.

Louis said the erroneous chart depicted the depth at the point of impact as 18 to 22 metres when the surveys have now shown that in reality it was between 3.5 and 5 metres.

“The official findings confirm the ship owner’s position,” the statement said. It said the company’s support of the vessel’s Master, his qualifications and experience had now been confirmed by the result of the official findings.

The 22,412-tonne Sea Diamond sank in April 2007, a day after hitting a reef just metres off the island’s coast as it tried to dock. More than 1,500 people were evacuated but a French man and his daughter went missing and have been presumed dead.

The company and the captain were fined a maximum €1.17 million by Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry for causing environmental pollution around the island. The fine was appealed.

A Greek prosecutor charged the captain and five other crew with negligence leading to the sinking. The trial had not yet started pending the final outcome of investigations that included a new mapping of the area.

“We are very pleased with the development,” said a Louis spokesman yesterday. “In essence the Master has been vindicated. He, and the company got a lot of criticism at the time but it’s now been confirmed without a doubt. The map was completely wrong and the route taken by the Master was safe, according to the map he had.”

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008

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Hebei Spirit anger at IMO meeting

Postby The Dieselduck » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:30 am

Fairplay 27 November 2008
Hebei Spirit anger at IMO meeting

CONCERN over the fate of the detained officers of the Hebei Spirit has been repeated at an IMO safety meeting in London.

Capt MM Saggi was one individual who expressed great concern yesterday over the failure of the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST) to follow the IMO Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents. Saggi is nautical adviser to the government of India.

Hebei Spirit, was struck by a barge in December 2007, resulting in a major oil spill affecting miles of Korean shoreline, and the captain and chief officer were arrested in South Korea.

Delegates at the IMO meeting condemned the unjustified detention of the two Indian officers of the Hebei Spirit saying it was a breach of the UNCLOS legislation and demanded their immediate repatriation. The fear of all those supporting the case for the immediate release of the Hebei Spirit officers is that the Korean Courts will accept the findings of the KMST Report, and that the officers will receive lengthy jail sentences.

A few days ago the IBF also condemned the treatment of the Hebei Spirit officers detained in South Korea and pledged that its members to do all they can to secure their release.

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Coral Sea master walks free after full acquittal

Postby The Dieselduck » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:36 am

Coral Sea master walks free after full acquittal: Patras court overturns guilty verdict for drugs haul
Nigel Lowry and Helen Hill, 28 November 2008 Lloyds List

CROATIAN reefer vessel master Kristo Laptalo was yesterday found innocent of drugs trafficking offences by a Greek appeals court and will walk free after spending 17 months in a high security jail.

A five-member Appellate Felony Court in Patras acquitted the veteran Coral Sea master of all charges stemming from the discovery of more than 51 kg of cocaine in a consignment of bananas unloaded in the Greek port of Aegeon in June last year.

The decision overturns the shock guilty verdict handed down four months ago against Capt Laptalo, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Judges needed only about 20 minutes yesterday to deliberate their verdict at the end of a part-day hearing, following a recommendation to acquit by the public prosecutor.

The master, 59, immediately sank into the embrace of his family. His wife, daughter and to sons were in court.

“It has been a long road,” said John Keough, a partner at New York-based law firm Waesche, Sheinbaum & O’Regan, which represented all three men accused in the Coral Sea case and the shipowner.

“He is pretty speechless and greatly relieved,” Mr Keough said of Capt Laptalo’s reaction. “It has been far too long coming, but this is the right result.”

He added that the acquittal had been a “perfect gift for Thanksgiving” for the Americans on the legal team.

Greek defence lawyer Andreas Nassikas said that while the master may be released from prison as early as today it was likely to be “a couple of days” before all formalities were resolved.

Despite the acquittal in the first trial in July of two shipmates, the Coral Sea’s first officer Konstantin Metelev and bosun Narcisco Garcia, the treatment of thetrio and the captain’s continuing plight had been attracting increasing concern from among seafarers’ organisations, in particular.

Supporters of the three, who were held for a year in Korydallos prison awaiting trial, always maintained there was not a shred of evidence against any of the men and that the case hinged on the notion of a master’s alleged responsibility for anything happening onboard his ship.

In a statement yesterday the International Transport Workers’ Federation maritime co-ordinator Stephen Cotton said: “This is justice at last for Kristo Laptalo.”

He said: “Happy though we are for him we must not forget that every seafarer is potentially in the firing line.

“Authorities have to learn to stop reaching for the easy option and condemning the — usually foreign — ships’ officers as a gift to public opinion when things go wrong.

“We would never condone drug smuggling but it has long been clear that Capt Laptalo was not guilty of any involvement in such an activity.”

International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations secretary-general Rodger MacDonald, also welcomed the acquittal. “It is absolutely fantastic,” he said.

He had earlier told the court that there was “no way” the master could have been expected to know that drugs had been loaded on to his ship in Ecuador. A shipmaster “is not in a position to see what is being loaded in sealed containers and sealed pallets”, he had earlier told Lloyd’s List.

At the first trial lawyers had complained that the tribunal had curtailed the testimony of many of the defence witnesses to a few minutes, while others were not allowed to give evidence. ITF co-ordinator for Croatia, Predrag Brazzoduro, who was also at the appeal hearing, said: “With all the recent circumstances, pirate attacks, jail sentences, who the hell would like to be a master?”

Lawyers on the defence team confirmed that Mr Metelev, first officer on the Coral Sea, has now returned home to Lithuania. One source, though, said he was still “suffering from a psychiatric condition dating from his incarceration in Greece.”

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Indian unions call for Korean boycott

Postby The Dieselduck » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:46 am

Indian unions call for Korean boycott
Proposed action in support of ‘Hebei Two’
Keith Wallis, 19 November 2008 Lloyds List

INDIAN seafarer unions are stepping up pressure on South Korea over the ‘Hebei Two’, the master and chief officer of the very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit, with a proposed boycott of South Korean companies and products.

The National Union of Seafarers of India and the Maritime Union of India said they were seeking feedback on the proposed boycott by today.

Calling for the boycott against Samsung and other Korean companies National Union of Seafarers general secretary Abdulgani Serang and NUI general secretary SS Khan said: “Now it is time for the Indian shipping fraternity to take this giant company head on and to show who the Indian shipping fraternity really is. We need to express and show solidarity with Capt Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan.”

Capt Chalwa and Mr Chetan were initially cleared last June of all charges related to the Hebei Spirit, which was holed in a collision with a drifting crane barge operated by Samsung Heavy Industries during severe weather in December. The barge broke free from one its its two tows and smashed into the anchored tanker holing tanks on the port side, which led to more than 10,500 tonnes of oil spilling into the sea.

But the two men, who have been refused permission to leave South Korea, faced a retrial over the past two months after prosecutors appealed against their acquittal. Seoul’s high court will give its verdict on the retrial on December 10.

Outlining details of the boycott, the unions suggested India’s 200,000 seafarers, shipowners, crewing agents, ship crewing staff, ship chandlers, maritime administration and general public should stop buying all types of Samsung products.

The two unions added: “Indian shipping companies, which have placed orders in Korea for newbuildings, should cancel their orders under protest.”

The unions also planned to contact “celebrities who are endorsing Samsung products to provide their support to this cause”.

They said it had been alleged that Samsung had tried to influence the case and implicate Capt Chawla and Mr Chetan “in some manner or another to find a scapegoat”. They added the two men could be jailed for three years “as demanded by the prosecution”.

The call for the boycott coincided with the launch of a new Hebei Spirit blog calling for fair treatment for the two men.

Posts on the blog said a report by the Incheon Maritime Safety Tribunal, produced at the retrial, was not meant to apportion blame but to report on the cause of the collision and suggest preventive measures.

“Despite this, 70% of the report seems to be focused on finding fault with actions of the crew of the Hebei Spirit, which had been anchored since the previous evening,” one blog said.

It added that the report glossed over other questions, including why the masters of the tugs towing the crane barge passed “so dangerously close across the bows of the anchored Hebei Spirit”.

V.Ships, which managed the Hebei Spirit and the vessel owner, denied direct involvement in the blog ( but agreed with the accuracy of the contents.

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Re: Seafarer criminalization

Postby Madzng » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:28 pm

I am not sure what is worse, the fact that this happens, or that it doesnt even make the press.

When will things change? ?

Lloyds List 10th July 2009

EVEN as the industry celebrated the release of the Hebei Two by South Korean authorities, three other seafarers were under detention without charge in Taiwan.

It has only just come to light publicly that three crew from the NYK-owned very large crude carrier Tosa had been detained without charge for three months by the authorities in Taiwan over their alleged involvement in the sinking of the fishing trawler Hsin Tung Chuan 86, in which two men died.

The master and a crew member of the Tosa have been bailed but not allowed to leave Hua Lien, while the second officer is being held in solitary confinement as protracted investigations continue.

NYK Ship Management managing director Hemant Pathania and Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association managing director Arthur Bowring are quite right to express their concerns and frustrations over the treatment of the seafarers.

But why has this case taken so long to come to light? With the focus the Hebei Two brought on the fair treatment of seafarers in legal cases, more pressure could have been expected by now.

The industry must stand up for the rights of its seafarers and make it known publicly, as HKSOA has done in this case, that enough is enough.

Obviously if the seafarers are charged and found guilty they should face the appropriate punishment. For the time being there is no question that they should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

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US convicts Theotokos chief officer

Postby The Dieselduck » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:32 am

US convicts Theotokos chief officer
(source of this article is unknown - received by email)

The Filipino chief officer of the Polembros Shipping bulker Theotokos has become the first individual to be convicted under a US law designed to combat the introduction of invasive species into national waters.

The conviction is accompanied by the ship’s master pleading guilty to four felonies on pollution, ship safety and obstructing a US Coast Guard investigation.
US Coast Guard inspectors boarded the 1984-built, 71,242 dwt Theotokos in New Orleans in October last year, and uncovered two separate situations.
The master and chief officer discovered a 24-inch crack in the ship’s rudder stem after it reached China from a Suez voyage in the summer of 2008. The crack was leaking water, which was coming from the ship’s ballast system.

Although they made a verbal report to company personnel, the ship did not advise the USCG of this situation until it was discovered in New Orleans .
The USCG subsequently found that fuel was leaking from the deep fuel tanks into the forepeak ballast tank, a situation about which the two seafarers were also said to be aware.

While looking into the problem and devising ways to clean the tank, the master ordered the level of liquid in the tank lowered by pumping it overboard. He is further said to have ordered fitters to fabricate an obstruction device onto the forepeak tank’s sounding tube, so that the USCG inspectors would only reveal water and not oil.

In the event, the seafarers are now charged under two different statutes that address invasive species as well as pollution.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, two Greek seafarers on the Dalnave Navigation-operated bulker Myron N have become the latest to plead guilty in a magic pipe case in the US .

A federal judge in Trenton , New Jersey , is scheduled to announce the sentences of the Myron N pair on September 8. Each seafarer faces up to six years in jail followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

The chief engineer and the second engineer of the Myron N have both pleaded guilty to falsifying records to hide the release of untreated bilge from the ship.
Such cases have remained a regular occurrence despite the US Department of Justice’s environmental prosecutors being on a high-profile campaign against this practice for at least four years, which has yielded the government hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.

Shipping companies and seafarers who face these charges are generally found guilty for the action of presenting falsified oil record books to authorities in a US harbour, instead of the high-seas pollution itself.

The 1990-built, 70,424 dwt Myron N arrived in Gravesend Anchorage in New York in September last year, where the falsified oil record book was uncovered.

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Capt and crew held in Taiwan

Postby The Dieselduck » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:39 am

Another Master victimized
BSN Network / Mumbai
Monday, July 13, 2009

Barely has the maritime community heaved a sigh of relief at the release of two Indian seafarers from S. Korea, comes the news of M.V, ‘TOSA’, Master, Capt. Glen Aroza – an Indian National being detained in Taiwan. This incident points to the need for concerted efforts at national and international level to protect the rights of innocent seafarers.

Capt. Glen Aroza has been detained in Taiwan since April 17 2009, after M.V, ‘TOSA’, which is a large crude carrier registered in Panama, was taken at gunpoint from the high seas from international waters to Hualien in Taiwan said Capt. V.K. Gupta, Master of CMMI. Two other crew members, namely the second officer (a Bangladesh national) and a seaman (a Philippines national), who were on watch at the time of the alleged incident, have also been detained in jail without bail.

The allegations against the Master are vague and have been changed / amended a number of times at the whim and caprice of Taiwanese authorities.

It was first alleged that the TOSA had collided with a Taiwanese fishing trawler in international waters as a consequence of which the trawler capsized and two fishermen lost their lives. When inspections of the hulls of the trawler as well as the TOSA revealed that there was no physical contact between the two vessels, it was alleged that the trawler (whose length is said to be 21.6 meters and deadweight about 100 tons) capsized due to the wake of the TOSA. On the face of it, this allegation is ludicrous. Any one with even a nodding acquaintance of the ships and the seas knows that it is impossible for a trawler of that size to capsize simply by the waves created by a large ship – unless of course she was inherently unstable and un-seaworthy. This allegation is all the more atrocious in view of the fact that the wind force at the time was only about force 5/6 on the Beaufort scale.

Subsequently, records and investigations revealed that the second officer was independently in-charge of the navigation watch and though the Master had left WRITTEN orders to give all vessels – especially fishing vessels, a wide berth and to be called in case of doubt, the second officer did not consider it necessary to inform the Master as, in his opinion, the TOSA had passed the trawler at a safe distance. The allegation against the Master was now changed to “involuntary manslaughter” , failure to render assistance (even though, no distress signal – whether visual / wireless or otherwise were sent out either by the trawler or by any other station on shore or at sea) and / or failure to train the second officer and the seaman on duty.

Even if one ignores the patent impossibility of the alleged facts, detention of and investigation against the Master and crew of the TOSA are patently illegal and without jurisdiction for the following reasons:

1. It is an admitted position that at all material times, the second officer was independently in charge of the navigation watch and that the Master was not on the bridge – indeed he first learnt about the alleged incident from Taiwan coast guard nearly nine / ten hours after the event. STCW Convention clearly provides that the duty officer remains fully responsible for the safe navigation of the watch even if the Master is present on the bridge – unless the Master takes over the watch. Thus, if at all any blame attaches to the TOSA for the alleged capsizing of the Trawler; the officer of the watch is solely responsible and the allegations of any neglect or wrongful act on the part of the Master are without any basis.

2. At all times, the TOSA was on the “High Seas” as defined in international law (well outside the territorial waters of Taiwan) – in fact she was forced into Taiwanese ports illegally and under threat of armed force against all international law and accepted norms of civilized behavior. Thus, even if all the facts as alleged are true, Taiwanese authorities have no jurisdiction whatsoever – whether civil or criminal.

3. Article 92 of UNCLOS 1982 states: “Ships shall sail under the flag of one state only and, save in exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas.”

4. Article 97 of UNCLOS further holds that “no arrest or detention of the ship, even as a measure of investigation, shall be ordered by any authorities other than those of the flag state.” The flag state in this case was the Republic of Panama- where the TOSA is registered. 1

5. Article 1 of “The International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to Penal Jurisdiction in Matters of Collision or Other Incidents of Navigation” provides: In the event of a collision or any other incident of navigation concerning a sea-going ship and involving the penal or disciplinary responsibility of the master or of any other person in the service of the ship, criminal or disciplinary proceedings may be instituted only before the judicial or administrative authorities of the State of which the ship was flying the flag at the time of the collision or other incident of navigation.

Article 2 of the same Convention provides: “No arrest or detention of the vessel shall be ordered, even as a measure of investigation, by any authorities other than those whose flag the ship was flying.”

This is not the first time Taiwan has detained an Indian citizen and merchant navy officer in violation of international law. In 1996-1999, Captain Raj Goel was detained in Taiwan for three and a half years.

Recently, two Indian merchant navy officers were illegally detained in South Korea for over one and a half years. It is no exaggeration to say that these officers were released mainly because of the pressures brought about by the international shipping community. Efforts by official circles in India were woefully inadequate and consisted of no more than lip service.

It would be naïve to expect Taiwanese authorities to abide by international law unless sufficient pressure is brought on it. It would be equally futile to hope that those in power will do any thing at all to protect Indian sea-farers unless they are compelled to do so. It is time the maritime and shipping community in India join hands to wake up our political masters and civil servants from their slumber and indifference.


The incident of Maersk Dubai is worth recalling here if only to highlight the double standards observed by Taiwan.
The Maersk Dubai was a Taiwan registered vessel owned by Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation. She was manned by Taiwanese officers and Philipino crew.

In March 1996, two Romanian nationals were discovered in one of the containers on the ship and ordered overboard on a makeshift raft, a approximately 38 nautical miles off Gibraltar.

Again, about two months later, while proceeding towards Halifax, another Romanian was found in a container and forced overboard by the Master – one Captain Sheng Hsiu and four of his officers. A fourth stowaway was discovered by one of the Filipino crew and was kept hidden until the ship arrived at Halifax, where eight Filipino crewmen jumped ship and reported the incident to the authorities.

Captain Hsiu and his officers were arrested and charged with first degree murder. The radio operator attempted to escape by jumping into Halifax harbour but was later arrested.

Captain Hsiu attempted to deny access to the ship under “international shipping laws”.

Romania requested extradition of the Master and the accused officers. The Presiding judge held that he did not have jurisdiction as the alleged crimes had been committed on the high seas. However, he added that but for the lack of jurisdiction the Court would have committed all of the officers.

“Taiwan protested the storming of the ship and the arrest of the officers, and contested the attempt by Canadian authorities to extradite them to Romania citing Articles 92 and 97 of UNCLOS.

The officers were eventually extradited to Taiwan.

Captain Hsiu was charged with criminal negligence causing death and was subsequently acquitted for lack of evidence regarding the stowaways’ death.
None of the other officers were brought to trial.

It was widely reported that the Pilipino crew who reported the crime to the Canadian authorities were victimized and their families harassed and threatened in the Philippines.

It is yet another ‘Seafarer AT SEA’. Will the Master M.V, ‘TOSA’, Capt. Glen Aroza get justice? If ‘Hebei Spirit’ incident has proved one thing, it is this, even the high and mighty cannot withstand the combined pressures of maritime constituents.

So, are we going to remain mute spectators now?

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Prison Sentence For Cosco Busan Pilot

Postby The Dieselduck » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:05 pm

Prison Sentence For Cosco Busan Pilot
Monday, July 20, 2009

John Joseph Cota, the pilot who caused the Cosco Busan, a 900-ft long container ship, to collide with the San Francisco Bay Bridge and discharge approximately 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay, was sentenced to serve 10 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston for the Northern District of California, the Justice Department announced.

Cota, who was a licensed bar pilot at the time of the collision, gave commands that caused the 65,131-ton Hong Kong-registered ship to collide with the bridge on Nov. 7, 2007.

Cota was sentenced according to an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to negligently causing discharge of a harmful quantity of oil in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), as amended by the Oil Spill Act of 1990 - a law passed in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster - and to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, by causing the death of protected species of migratory birds.

In papers filed in court, prosecutors told the judge that Captain Cota should receive a sentence of incarceration because he was "guilty of far more than a mere slip-up or an otherwise innocuous mistake that yielded unforeseeably grave damage. Rather, he made a series of intentional and negligent acts and omissions, both before and leading up to the incident that produced a disaster that, as widespread as it was, could have had even worse consequences."

"Captain Cota abandoned ship by not following required safety procedures which then resulted in an environmental disaster" said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"The court's sentence of John Cota should serve as a deterrent to shipping companies and mariners who think violating the environmental laws that protect our nation's waterways will go undetected or unpunished," said Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. "They will be vigorously prosecuted."

Prosecutors provided the court with a list of Cota's errors that included the following:

Captain Cota left in extreme fog that was so thick that the bow of the vessel was not visible from the bridge. Captain Cota made the decision to leave in the fog while the pilots of six other large commercial vessels decided not to depart in the heavy fog which was less than 0.5 nautical miles.

Having made the decision to leave port in impenetrable fog, Captain Cota took no action to assure the fortification of the bridge or bow watch or review the passage plan with the master and crew of the Cosco Busan. In particular, Cota failed to have a master-pilot exchange to review the transit plan.

Captain Cota has subsequently claimed that he found both radar unreliable, but he did not notify the master or the Coast Guard that a required piece of equipment needed to safely navigate the ship had failed. Meanwhile, the captured images of the radar retained on the ship's computer show that the radar was fully operational.

The tape recorded conversations from the ship's bridge show that Captain Cota was confused regarding the operation of the electronic chart system upon which he chose to rely including the meaning of two red triangles that marked buoys marking the tower of the bridge that he eventually hit.

At no time during the voyage after leaving the berth at 8:07 a.m. and prior to 8:30 a.m. did Captain Cota, or any of the ship's crew, consult the ship's official paper navigational chart or take a single positional fix. Captain Cota did not ask any crew member to take any fixes or verify the ship's position despite the lack of visibility. After the incident, Cota told the Coast Guard he did not request fixes because it is like "driving your car out of a driveway."

Prosecutors also filed papers showing that Captain Cota had failed to disclose his medical conditions and prescription drug use on required annual forms submitted to the Coast Guard.

The discharge of heavy fuel oil from the Cosco Busan fouled 26 miles of shoreline, killed more than 2,400 birds of about 50 species, temporarily closed a fishery on the bay, and delayed the start of the crab-fishing season. Monetary damages to the bridge, ship and private parties were in the tens of millions of dollars. Clean-up costs have been estimated to exceed $70 million. The birds killed include Brown Pelicans, Marbled Murrelets and Western Grebes. The Brown Pelican is a federally endangered species and the Marbled Murrelet is a federally threatened species and an endangered species under California law.

Cota was licensed by the Coast Guard and California as a Bar Pilot, according to the indictment. He was a member of the San Francisco Bar Pilots and had been employed in the San Francisco Bay since 1981. In California, large ocean-going vessels are required to be piloted when entering or leaving port.

The grand jury indictment also charges Fleet Management Limited (Hong Kong), a ship management firm, with the same alleged offenses as well as false statements and obstruction of justice charges. Trial in that case is set for Sept. 14, 2009. An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation has been conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey Geis and Jonathan Schmidt and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tribolet of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California, and Richard A. Udell, Senior Trial Attorney with the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under the Crime Victims' Rights Act, crime victims are afforded certain statutory rights including the opportunity to attend all public hearings and provide input to the prosecution. Those adversely impacted by the oil spill are encouraged to visit to learn more about the case and the Crime Victims' Rights Act.

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Capt and Crew held in Taiwan

Postby deepdsouza » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:07 am

I strongly condemn the treatment meted out to Capt. Glen Aroza and his Crew. When will this criminalization end. Many of us at some point of time or the other have been subject to such behaviour from different authorities. I strongly urge the IMO and Other Shipping Bodies to take up this cause. Anyone who has been in this area will know how Recklessley and Calously these Da%* Fishing Trawlers Operate. This is not the first time this has happened and it wont be the last. So...who is the next victim going to be. Probably you or me or some poor Bloke from a country whose government has little or no regard for thier seafarers and whose politicians and government is more active in making money than taking care of their seafarers and citizens.
So What do we do next ????? DO we wait and see who the next innocent victim will be or it's about time we put or foot down and do something about this.
Me and my colleagues express fully support to Capt Glen Aroza and his team. We hopeand pray that they is released soon and can return safely to their families.

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Norway detains Chinese crew of grounded bulker Full City

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:32 am

Intermanager and union groups slam Full City decision

Intermanager, the ITF and Norwegian seafarers unions have jointly condemned this week's decision by a Norwegian court to continue detaining two officers from the bulker Full City. The groups called it the worst case of seafarer victimisation since the Hebei Spirit. According to the ITF, InterManager, the Norsk Sjømannsforbund, the Norsk Sjøoffisersforbund, and Det norske maskinistforbund, the treatment of two officers of the ship Full City, who were arrested in Norway when it ran aground at the end of July spilling some of its bunker fuel, is "legally and morally indefensible".

Intermanager president Roberto Giorgi said: "This is looking all too much like another Hebei Spirit, where seafarers doing their job are hauled in front of a court to satisfy an illusory public requirement that someone gets punished when oil leaks onto water. This automatic reaching for the handcuffs is emphatically not the way to solve the fact that sometimes ships get into trouble, and actively undermines all the efforts everyone in shipping puts into making sure that safe is made paramount. Norway, a nation that understands safe shipping more than most, has shot itself in the foot by pandering to ignorance of the realities and a desire to blame someone, anyone, when things go wrong."

David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary, added: "The criminalisation of seafarers – the vilification of workers for accidents that may be beyond their control – is one of the ugliest developments in shipping. Sadly, it appears that once again we are looking at a knee-jerk response to an incident, which, more sadly still, is happening in the country where you’d least expect it."

Joint press release: ITF, InterManager and Norwegian unions unite to condemn Full City decision

15 October 2009

InterManager, the ITF and Norwegian seafarers’ trade unions today joined to condemn what they are calling the worst case of seafarer victimisation since the Hebei Spirit. According to the ITF, InterManager, the Norsk Sjømannsforbund, the Norsk Sjøoffisersforbund, and Det norske maskinistforbund, the treatment of two officers of the ship Full City, who were arrested in Norway when it ran aground at the end of July spilling some of its bunker fuel, is “legally and morally indefensible”. The two men, Zong Aming and Qiland Lu, were expected to be allowed to return home to China this week but in a surprise u-turn the appeal court reversed an earlier court decision and altered their bail conditions to keep them in the country pending a trial for negligence that is unlikely to be held until next year.

Roberto Giorgi, President of InterManager commented: “This is looking all too much like another Hebei Spirit, where seafarers doing their job are hauled in front of a court to satisfy an illusory public requirement that someone gets punished when oil leaks onto water. This automatic reaching for the handcuffs is emphatically not the way to solve the fact that sometimes ships get into trouble, and actively undermines all the efforts everyone in shipping puts into making sure that safe is made paramount. Norway, a nation that understands safe shipping more than most, has shot itself in the foot by pandering to ignorance of the realities and a desire to blame someone, anyone, when things go wrong.”

David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary, added: “The criminalisation of seafarers – the vilification of workers for accidents that may be beyond their control – is one of the ugliest developments in shipping. We all support the investigation of accidents, the learning of lessons from them and the identification of blame where it is truly found to have played a part, but this goes beyond that. Sadly, it appears that once again we are looking at a knee-jerk response to an incident, which, more sadly still, is happening in the country where you’d least expect it.”

Captain Hans Sande, Director of the Norsk Sjøoffisersforbund (Norwegian Maritime Officers’ Association) explained: “There is a wealth of maritime experience in Norway and we hope that some of it will find its way into the judicial process. If that happens the court case will be dropped and the normal maritime investigation processes will be free to take action unfettered by political considerations or nods to public opinion. If common sense prevails then the lessons of the grounding will be identified and learned, and the cargoes that we all rely on to sustain our way of life in every country in the world will travel that little bit more safely. If not we will once again see, not just the criminalisation of these two men, but a new generation of potential ship’s officers deciding that the job isn’t worth the risk of being unfairly pilloried that increasingly seems to come with it.”

Johnny Hansen, Vice President of the Norsk Sjømannsforbund (Norwegian Seafarers Union) also added his voice to today’s protest, describing the Full City case as “an inexplicable over-use of law that is wholly removed from the realities of the actual case.”

Hilde Gunn Avløyp, General Secretary of Det norske maskinistforbund (Norwegian Union of Marine Engineers) added that: “It is impossible to understand how, when the court in Telemark ruled that both men could have their passports back and return home on payment of a bail sum of around US$172,000, they now are to be kept in Norway and their passports withheld.”

For more details please contact:

ITF: Sam Dawson. Tel: +44(0) 20 7940 9260. Email:
MV Full City - NCG.jpg
Full City from Norwegian Coast Guard website
MV Full City - NCG.jpg (317.96 KiB) Viewed 15644 times
MV Full City - NCG.01.jpg
Full City from Norwegian Coast Guard website
MV Full City - NCG.01.jpg (509.74 KiB) Viewed 15644 times

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Jail terms handed down in deadly Hong Kong tugboat sinking

Postby The Dieselduck » Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:03 pm

Jail terms handed down in deadly Hong Kong tugboat sinking

Four seafarers will be spending the next few years in jail for the 2008 sinking of a Ukrainian tugboat in Hong Kong.

With the deaths of 18 seafarers on their hands, the punishment handed down last week was always going to be severe for the four seamen responsible for one of Hong Kong’s worst maritime disasters.

In March 2008, the Ukrainian tug, Neftegaz-67, collided with a Chinese bulk carrier, Yaohai, in a busy channel off Lantau island. The tug sank in minutes and only seven of the 25 crew managed to make it out alive.

Four sailors stood accused of endangering lives at sea – Neftegaz master Yuriy Kulemesin, Yaohai captain Liu Bo and Hong Kong pilots Tang Dock-wah and Bruce Chun.

They were all found guilty in a district court with the stiffest sentence reserved for Kulemesin. He will be spending the next three years and two months behind bars.

The other three defendants received sentences of between 28 months and three years. All plan to appeal.

In sentencing, the judge said Hong Kong’s busy waters demanded vigilance from ship crews. She heard that the tug had wrongly remained in the centre of the channel despite seeing the mainland carrier approaching, and despite several warnings from the Marine Department. Kulemesin testified that he did not hear the Yaohai's warning whistle blasts.

But the judge was unmoved by the defence, stating that the seamen watched and did nothing as a dangerous situation developed. She said that in the busy and restricted waters of Hong Kong, careful and prudent navigation was expected.

More than 200,000 ocean and river trade vessel arrivals are recorded in Hong Kong every year by the Marine Department, and most of them manage to navigate the busy waters safely without bumping into each other.

After colliding with the bulk carrier, the Neftegaz-67 sank quickly, trapping many of the crew inside. Hong Kong divers tried to get inside the hull of the sunken vessel in case some crew were trapped in air pockets, but the weather and the depth of the ship made their job impossible.

There is no such thing as closure for families of the dead, but at least putting those responsible behind bars brings to an end a painful chapter in Hong Kong’s maritime history.

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Greek Chief Engineer Acquitted in Texas ‘Magic Pipe’ Polluti

Postby Madzng » Thu May 06, 2010 11:01 pm

A jury in Houston federal court cleared Greek Chief Engineer Ioannis Mylonakis of all five felony charges alleging he engineered the dumping of oil tanker waste off of the Texas coast in early 2009.

The jury rejected claims by U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section that Mr. Mylonakis, as chief engineer of the 40,000-ton M/T GEORGIOS M, ordered his crew to use a so-called “magic pipe” to bypass pollution control equipment and discharge sludge and oily waste into the seas near Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Eight crewmembers testified for the government at the trial saying Mylonakis orchestrated the magic pipe bypass during his time on the vessel. Council for Mylonakis demonstrated the crew misled the government about the chief engineer’s involvement in return for grants of immunity. The jury found the crew members were not credible.

Presiding Judge Kenneth Hoyt struck down the testimony of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Lab’s expert chemist, ruling it was confusing and irrelevant. Defense presented a letter from a whistleblower alerting the government that the ship had employed a “magic pipe” in 2006. However, the US Coast Guard and the Department of Justice did not do a subsequent investigation to verify the claim. One of the crew, who signed the letter, later testified it was prepared and signed as revenge against a former company official.

George M. Chalos, a defense council member said, “There was good reason that Chief Mylonakis defiantly testified in his own defense and loudly protested the charges. He was innocent. The real shame is that the vessel’s owner and operator were trying to make Mylonakis the scapegoat and blame him for acts he didn’t do, which was compounded by the government’s failure to appreciate the facts as they truly exist and tred to convict an innocent man.”

The defense team said Mylonakis – a 48-year-old married father has not seen his daughter for more than a year while being held in the U.S.

The case is “U.S. v. Mylonakis,” Case No. 4:09-cr-00492, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Mylonakis was represented by ‘magic pipe’ specialist, George M. Chalos and George A. Gaitas, of Chalos & Co, P.C.,-International Law Firm and Joel Androphy and Kathryn Nelson, of Berg & Androphy, of Houston

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Re: Seafarer criminalization

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri May 07, 2010 9:15 am

Don't trust the company or the owners when it comes to interaction with the authorities. That's been the first thing I have realize over the course of my brief career. They will be the first to help put handcuffs on you so as to deflect blame off of themselves. Its the nature of the biz and probably the most surprising fact, at least in my naive mind. Just the way it is. I don't know the details, but I am sure it was an uphill struggle for this greek ce trying to overcome the allegations.
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Martin's Marine Engineering Page

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Another day in the kangaroo courts

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:43 am

Another day in the kangaroo courts
Michael Gray of Lloyd's List

It was my first voyage to Australia and we were alongside in Sydney, preparing to sail northwards to complete the discharge in Brisbane, thence to load in the ports of north Queensland.

“You’ll have a great time in Queensland, mate,” a Sydneyside wharfie assured us. Life, he suggested, was slower and more relaxed on the Tropic of Capricorn. The beer was colder, the girls more beautiful, the Queenslanders hospitality itself.

I suppose he could have been a Queenslander himself, but this parochial view of the state was not to be confirmed by the forthcoming visit, or any other subsequent voyages to this curious place.

It is probably true to say that although we were regular traders into Australian waters, we invariably had more trouble in the north than in any other parts of the Commonwealth. The waterfront unions were more militant, and employed an official called a “vigilante”, whose job it was to come aboard our beautifully turned-out ships and condemn our cargo gear as “unsafe”.

This gave the wharfies an excellent excuse to go ashore and play cards in the shed for a couple of hours, while the chief officer, shaking with rage at this slight, would give orders for all the derrick guys to be renewed or the gangway net doubled up.

They also gave the impression, particularly in the ports of north Queensland, that they didn’t like the Poms very much. It wasn’t that we had thin skins — being a “Pommie bastard” was par for the course around the Australian coast — but you felt they really meant it in this part of “the land of sand and prickly heat”, when it was a bit of a joke in the south.

That was long ago and far away, and most of the coastal centres of Queensland today are large and prosperous, besieged by tourists from Asia, who rush to city resorts such as Cairns to play golf and view 20 ft saltwater crocodiles in aquaria.

Cairns in my day was one street, a wharf and about 15 pubs, full of sweat-soaked, drunken stockmen in enormous hats who had driven cattle across from Arnhem Land and had to be disarmed of their rifles by the local constabulary before they entered the town.

But I was thinking back over the years, and reflecting that Queensland’s attitude to visiting foreign seafarers maybe hadn’t changed that much when reading about the ludicrous committal proceedings in Brisbane, where Bernardino Gonzales Santos and his employer Swire Shipping are to be tried on a series of ridiculous charges resulting from the accident to the Pacific Adventurer in March 2009.

Queensland’s contribution to the International Maritime Organization’s Year of the Seafarer does not exactly inspire faith in local justice, being apparently driven by politicians and the media, whose reaction to this marine accident has been bizarre and malicious.

With the perfect hindsight of those whose ignorance of marine operations appears profound, Capt Santos is being prosecuted for his “recklessness” in being caught by a severe cyclone, and for permitting some of his deck load of containers to break their lashings and fall over the side, where they collided with the ship’s shell plating, in the way of a bunker tank, which was pierced.

The master, who most professionals would suggest had handled his ship commendably in terrible circumstances and deserved congratulation, rather than the abuse he suffered from the politicians of Queensland, faces a series of charges, along with his employers, who themselves behaved in an exemplary fashion in the face of downright political thuggery and extortion in the aftermath of the accident.

In this ridiculous trial we can see encapsulated just what mariners complain about when they declare that the criminalisation of maritime accidents has become endemic and hugely unjust.

Perhaps it is because there really is a complete disconnect between what goes on at sea and society on land, in a way that has never been seen before.

The Queensland politicians and the media and greens who are baying for blood and punishment for these environmental crimes have long forgotten that were it not for shipping, their state would be occupied by a few subsistence farmers, and that all the prosperity they enjoy today is entirely dependent on marine transport. But that won’t make them suddenly ashamed of the way they are treating seafarers.

Curiously, while the Queenslanders are licking their lips at the prospect of prosecuting Capt Santos and his management, other government agencies in Australia are worrying about the terrible shortage of professional mariners who wish to become pilots in Australia’s ports and along the Barrier Reef.

Could this possibly be a consequence of the way mariners are regarded in Australia — as polluters and people to be criminalized in the event that the weather turns nasty, there is an accident and oil ends up on the beach?

It might also be something to do with the way the Australian shipping industry itself has been marginalized and driven to a shadow of its former self, with only foreign vessels ever seen in home waters.

But the Australians I am so busily traducing here could possibly argue that their treatment of Capt Santos is just par for the course in 2010, and no different to that found in France, Spain, Greece, the US, South Korea,Venezuela or Norway, to name but a few countries where they enjoy prosecuting people involved in marine accidents. And they would be right.

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