Bimco president Philip Embiricos has appealed for fair treatment of seafarers following the Hebei Spirit incident in a letter to Lloyd’s List:
BIMCO encourages fair treatment of seafarers in Hebei Spirit accident
It is difficult to judge an accident even with all the details on the table. The same goes for the unfortunate Hebei Spirit accident. What we do know is that seafarers have been detained and later charged for violation of anti pollution laws. It seems that the two barge captain have been in a difficult situation, while the crew of the tanker appear not to have had real possibilities to prevent the accident.
My role is not to judge the case, but to stress the complexity in these matters and to encourage the authorities to give fair treatment to the seafarers involved in this and other incidents. Luckily, no seafarers were injured in this accident, but the environmental impact is very unfortunate in itself. The IMO/ILO guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers from June 2006 should be followed by authorities all over the world. In this connection, BIMCO feels it necessary to highlight the fact that the guidelines state that coastal states should take steps to conduct the case in a fair and expeditious manner and the coastal state should minimize the physical presence of the seafarers. While we have no reason to suspect that this is not the case already, it should, nevertheless, be stressed here that more than 50 days since the incident took place, the three Masters are still detained in South Korea.
As we are know, most people around the world are not aware of the fact that ships carry 90% of all goods, and that shipping is a prerequisite for global trade and indeed the way we live today. Ships are run by people. It is the key to the shipping industry that seafarers are given fair treatment. This is not only to improve recruitment – which reflects a complex challenge with many elements involved – but first and foremost to give our current seafarers proper working conditions and treatment even in difficult times such as when they are involved in an accident. We owe that to one of our industries’ most precious assets – the seafarers.