Dec 212008

Shock at the disgraceful imprisonment of the master and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit by a Korean kangaroo court has over shadowed other parts of the story of one of the worst oil spill of recent years. What was going on out of the glare of media cover? P&I club Skuld’s recent issue of Beacon carries an article by its response team that is worth the read.

Skuld, the P&I club that Hebei Spirit was, as they say in the curious language used in the maritime industry, ‘entered into’ was on site just hours after the spill of 11,000 tonnes of oil. what met its team was more that sight. Says the Beacon article:

“It was the smell that got to us,” observed Paul Bo Lange, Skuld’s Head of Loss Prevention & Risk Management, based in the Skuld head office in Oslo. “Suddenly, even though we still had seven kilometres to go on our trip to the coast on that first morning after the incident, there was already the overwhelming smell of oil. Despite many years of experience with maritime casualties, the four passengers in the car were hardly prepared for the sight that met them as their vehicle reached the Korean Taean Coastal shoreline. “At the coast you normally see a mass of blue-green broken up by white,” said Paul. “What struck us was there was only black as far as the eye could see.”

The team had the task of looking after the crew and the vessel and assessing damage as well as advising on anti-pollution measures and how to deal with the local authorities. More than 40 experts and surveyors were brough in toTaean to deal with the rapidly mounting insurance claims, covering 100,000 people totalling more than $550 million.

One important question for the Skuld team was had the master and crew of the Hebei Spirit done enough to deal with the situation they faced?’. Says the article : “The Hebei Spirit had in fact done more than could be expected of it to avoid collision when the Samsung-owned crane barge rammed the Hebei Spirit after the barge’s tow line snapped and parted.”

The article was written after the master and chief officer had been cleared of all charges but were still in detention as the powers that be sought a court more amenable to passing a the guilty verdict.

Skuld’s coverage gives an insider’s view on what happens when such massive pollution events demand rapid and effective clean-up.

All that’s left now is for the Korean judiciary to get its act clean and everyone will be happy.

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