<p class="articlebody]Captain Jasprit Chawla was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $14,000, while chief officer Syam Chetan was sentenced to eight months and fined $7,000 on Wednesday.
<p class="articlebody]The 270,000–dwt single-hulled tanker (built 1993), owned by China’s Hosco, was hit by a Samsung Heavy Industries crane barge while at anchor in the Yellow Sea in December 2007, spilling 10,500 tonnes of crude and causing at least $500m in damages to a wide stretch of coastline.
<p class="articlebody]Hosco was fined $21,000.
<p class="articlebody]The South Korean appeal court overturned a lower court ruling which found the operators of the VLCC not guilty and placed the blame almost entirely with Samsung.
<p class="articlebody]The ruling is sure to prompt widespread anger among shipowners and crew unions.
<p class="articlebody]The barge broke free from two tugs in rough seas and smashed into the tanker, which could not avoid it. The court jailed one tug captain for two years and six months, while the other was jailed for eight months.
<p class="articlebody]Hosco said their crew acted with the utmost professionalism to slacken the anchor line and move the massive tanker at short notice to minimise the collision.
<p class="articlebody]But the court said: “<strong>The captain could have averted a collision by pulling up the anchor or moving backward at full or half the usual speed</strong>.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the governments of the seafaring nations of the world scratch their heads in wonder as to why it becomes harder by the day to convince their citizens to pursue careers in the maritime profession. I quote the philosopher Homer Simpson: <strong>Doh!!!</strong>
Stuff like this is why I stopped sailing. The pay does not make up for the amount of liability that we are accepting as deck officers… Maybe, the courts were under the impression that in order to start the engines on a ship you just have to choke them, pump the fuel bulb, and then yank madly at a pull cord.
I certainly hope that they have not exhausted the appeals process and that some sanity is allowed to return to this process. This is like being T-boned by a drunk on the road, and being sent to jail for vehicular homicide because someone in the offender’s automobile died on impact.
I’d say something like this couldn’t happen in the US but, the last I checked, the Captain of the Cosco Busan was still being held as a witness by the USCG in San Francisco.