What’s A Ship? Asks IOPC

 oil, oil pollution, oil spill, oil tanker  Comments Off on What’s A Ship? Asks IOPC
Nov 122011

The end of Erika, twelve years to reach a conclusion

At an assembly of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds held on 24-28 October 2011, the IOPC decided to establish a working group under the chairmanship of Denmark to have a closer look at what ships are covered by the right to be compensated for oil pollution damage.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, IOPC Funds, consists of three intergovernmental organisations – the 1971 Fund, the 1992 Fund and the Supplementary Fund – which provide compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers.

The working group, which is chaired by Deputy Director-General Birgit Sølling Olsen, is to examine the various interpretations of what ships are covered by the Funds conventions. On this basis, the working group is to look into what consequences the various interpretations have for the compensation coverage and the obligation to contribute to the Fund since only ships defined as “ships” under the conventions can receive compensation. It is expected that the first working group meeting will be held in connection with the next meeting of the IOPC Fund in April 2012.
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SMI Sued For $400m For Hebei Spirit

 collision, oil pollution, oil spill  Comments Off on SMI Sued For $400m For Hebei Spirit
Mar 182010

Hebei Spirit oil spill was a major, and expensive, pollution event.

Samsung Heavy Industries, SHI, is being sued for a total of $400m by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992, also known as the 1992 Fund, and Skuld P&I Club, the Hebei Spirit insurer. Investigations into the cause of the incident so far indicate that negligence by the crane barge and the three towing tugs was the substantive cause of the collision and that there are grounds to deny the owner of the crane barge, Samsung Heavy Industries, SHI, the right to limit its liability for the incident.

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Hebei Spirit Captain Says Thanks For The Love

 Accident, collision, maritime safety, oil pollution, oil spill  Comments Off on Hebei Spirit Captain Says Thanks For The Love
Jul 152009

Captain Jasprit Singh Chawla, one of the two seafarers released in June following 18 months of detention in South Korea, has conveyed his thanks to all who supported him. He and chief officer Syam Chetan were detained after their vessel, the Hebei Spirit, was hit by a crane barge, causing an oil spill. Continue reading »

Hebei Spirit raised at 86th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee

 accident reporting, maritime accidents  Comments Off on Hebei Spirit raised at 86th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee
May 282009

From Bimco:

The 86th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) kicked off its heavy agenda this morning, 27 May, with an introduction by IMO Secretary General Efthimios Mitropoulos, which was swiftly followed by an intervention by India on the Hebei Spirit and the continued detainment of the two officers.

Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan, who were both found innocent of all charges at first instance but subsequently found guilty by the Daejeon District Court of breaching marine pollution laws and negligence, have recently been acquitted by the Supreme Court of those charges giving rise to prison sentences. See previous article  The case has been remitted to the Daejeon District Court for re-examination and it is understood that the final hearing was held yesterday, with the anticipated judgment releasing the two detained officers to be handed down on 11 June.

India’s appeal, which welcomed the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the prison sentences and called upon the Government of Korea to right wrongs done, was supported by several delegations and international organisations. Several international organisations, including BIMCO, have been working hard to maintain focus on this matter and continuous pressure on the Korean authorities to seek the release of the two officers. It is hoped that this is the last leg of an arduous journey, and that the two officers will be formally released and allowed to return home to their families.

MSC 86 is due to finish on Friday 5 June and there are several items on the agenda, including piracy and armed robbery against ships. A comprehensive summary of the issues discussed will follow, as usual.

Skuld Sues Samsung

 oil spill, oil tanker  Comments Off on Skuld Sues Samsung
Feb 102009

Owners of the Hebei Spirit and insurers, Assuranceforeningen Skuld, and the IOPC Fund started recourse proceedings against Samsung Heavy Industries, SHI, in the Ningbo Maritime Court, China, for claims, costs, and losses totalling some $400 million. The claim arises from the 11,000 tonnes oil spill caused when a massive Samsung owned and operated crane barge broke free from the Samsung operated towing tugs and a tow line broke and struck the anchored Very Large Crude Carrier tanker, Hebei Spirit, on 7the December 2007.

Hebei Spirit, 146 848 gross tonnes, laden with 209,000 tonnes of crude oil, was struck by the crane barge Samsung No 1, while at anchor about five miles off Taean on the west coast of South Korea. About 10,500 tonnes of crude oil escaped into the sea from the Hebei Spirit and much of South Korea’s western coast was affected to varying degrees.

The 1992 Fund and the shipowner’s insurer, the Skuld P&I Club, have established a claims office in Seoul to handle of claims for compensation and to help claimants.

South Korea is a Party to the 1992 Civil Liability and Fund Conventions and compensation is available to any individual, business, private organisation or public body which has suffered pollution damage as a result of the Hebei Spirit incident. The total amount of compensation available under these conventions is US$304 million, of which $134 million is available from the shipowner’s insurer, the Skuld P&I Club, under the 1992 Civil Liability Convention, and up to $169 million from the 1992 Fund. The total amount of the losses arising from the spill is currently estimated at US$411-437 million and it is almost certain that the full amount of compensation available under the conventions will be paid. Costs for significant amounts will also be incurred.

Investigations into the cause of the incident so far indicate that negligence by the crane barge and the three towing tugs was the substantive cause of the collision and that there are grounds to deny the owner of the crane barge, Samsung Heavy Industries, SHI, the right to limit its liability for the incident. In conjunction with the Hebei Spirit’s owner and its insurer, Skuld P&I Club, the 1992 Fund, in order to protect its interests, has commenced recourse proceedings against SHI in the Ningbo Maritime Court, China. The total amount claimed by the 1992 Fund is some $200 million, which is in addition to a claim for some $200 million by the owner and Skuld P&I Club.

Skuld Reveals Fighting Spirit of the Hebei Spirit

 accident reporting  Comments Off on Skuld Reveals Fighting Spirit of the Hebei Spirit
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.

Korean Common Sense Lost In Translation – Hebei Spirit

 maritime accidents  Comments Off on Korean Common Sense Lost In Translation – Hebei Spirit
Dec 152008

Something got lost in translating English ‘fair treatment of seafarers’ into Korean, in which language it apparently means “use any excuse to lock ’em up” or prehaps the South Korean courts were taking advice from their Stalinist siblings to the north on how to run a show trial. “Technically flawed” was the phrase used by the defense lawyers for Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Shyam Chetan of the tanker Hebei Spirit, holed while at anchor by an errant barge. “Judicial incompetence” is another phrase that comes to mind: Those asked to adjudicate the case had neither the knowledge nor experience to pass judgement upon it.

Hebei Spirit was at anchor on 7th December when a barge carrying a crane came loose from its towing cable and slammed into the Hebei Spirit, holing it and causing leaks from its cargo tanks. An earlier, and more competent, court, found the officers of the Hebei Spirit innocent of fault.

That wasn’t the result the Korean government wanted so it detained Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan until it could find a course more amenable to locking up innocent men. It found that court, and disgraced Korea.

To put in other terms, it is as if you had put your car in a parking lot, switched off the engine, and a passing car lost control and hit yours, causing you car’s gas tank to leak. Your fault? Of course not. It was your fault, according to the Korean judicial system.

According to the court, tankers are like motor cars. One just turns a key and the full power of the engine is instantly available for you to reverse out of trouble. Captain Chawla or Chief Officer Shyman simply had to immediately go full stern when they saw the barge coming – without actually knowing what was going on. They had to do that from a standing start.

Nobody, it seems, explained to their honors that damn great oil tankers don’t drive like Kia Prides.

Then Captin Chawla, in the court’s opinion, should not have concerned himself with ensuring that a highly inflammable cargo did not catch fire and the vessel and the crew be lost, causing even greater pollution, the loss of lives and the loss of the ship. He should not have inerted the tanks, which was, by any measure of common sense, the right thing to do.

Korea’s government, evidentally devoid of common sense, complained that a critical article in Lloyd’s List, which pointed out Korea’s obligations towards seafarers and the appalling and unjustice court decision “disgraced Korea”.

No, Korea disgraced itself, it dishonoured itself It put a court in judgement of issues with which it was not competent to deal and put pressure on that court to imprison innocent people.

If one acts disgracefully, as Korea has in this case, one has no excuse for complaining about being disgraced.

V-Ship’s comment on the imprisonment bears repeating:

Today’s decision by the Korean Appeal Court to find guilty the Master and Chief Officer of the ‘Hebei Spirit’, an anchored VLCC which was struck by a Samsung Crane Barge, will surely go down as one of the most disgraceful examples of  a miscarriage of justice in a ‘supposedly’ advanced nation state. For Capt Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan to be sentenced to prison terms and lead from the court in handcuffs is a disgrace and insult to the whole shipping industry.

It is hardly surprising that the Indian seafarers’ unions are up in arms.  No wonder the ITF and its international membership are questioning whether it is safe for its members to travel on ships to Korea.  No wonder carriers are considering future calls at Korean Ports.  Certainly ship owners will be reviewing their future shipbuilding orders in Korean yards.

Having found the ‘Hebei Spirit’ officers innocent of all charges at a court hearing on June 24 this year, it appeared to be an extraordinary decision made by the Korean prosecutor to go for appeal on such an open and shut case.

To then follow this decision by failing to allow the ‘Hebei Spirit’ officers to return home to their loved ones after 6 months held in Korea, was to compound the gross injustice that had been done and was despite assurances from V.Ships that the officers would return for any future hearings. The two officers have now been held in Korea, without the right to leave the country, for one year

As far as the appeal case itself is concerned, the reliance placed upon the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST ) findings and conclusions, has resulted in technically flawed, unreliable and unjust evidence being submitted to the Daejeon District Court, the Court of Appeal, which returned its decision today.

In submitting their report, the KMST has demonstrated both its incompetence and an obvious desire to find fault with the officers of the Hebei Spirit. It is also a matter of fact that in compiling their report, the KMST has not complied with the IMO guidelines for consultation with other parties.

This blatant and totally unjustifiable case of criminalisation of a profession that we all rely upon for our international trade must not go unanswered by the international community and all those in the shipping industry.

We can only hope that the Authorities in Korea will take immediate steps to restore the country’s now tarnished image as a place where all who deal there can expect justice and respect of human rights.

The question raised by the V-Ships response to the Korean iniquity is whether the industry really does have the guts to respond appropriately, or to respond at all. It is not an industry noted for intestinal fortitude.

South Korea’s defence of its dishonourable behaviour, as published in Lloyd’s List, sadly makes it clear that its own arrogance will deny it the decency to put things right.

Occasionally there is talk of the reunification of North and South Korea. No reunification is required, South Korea has already adopted North Korea’s approach to human rights. It has little left to do but to change its name.

Kim Jong Il will be proud of them.