Monday, 28 July, 2008

Indian shipping associations express deep anguish at the continued detention of seafarers.

Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA), Foreign Owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA) and Maritime Association of Shipowners, Shipmanagers & Agents (MASSA) are deeply concerned at the continued and unjust detention of the two Indian Officers from the tanker Hebei Spirit, despite being declared innocent.

In a judgment handed down on June 23, 2008 at a branch of the Daejeon District Court in the city of Seosan, South Chungcheong Province, on South Korea's west coast, the Master and Chief Officer of the Hebei Spirit were found innocent of all charges of violating the ocean pollution law; as was the Hong Kong owner of the vessel, Hebei Spirit Shipping Co Ltd

According to the associations Capt. Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan have conducted themselves in the highest level of professional excellence in respecting and abiding by the law of the land and provided their fullest cooperation to the investigations and legal process. They have been in Korea since December 07 and been present at the court proceedings whenever required.

Despite being declared innocent, the exit ban has been further extended preventing them from leaving Korea and that the officers may have to stay another year.

The officers have pledged that they will certainly visit Korea and attend court hearings to be held at the appellate court and participate in the legal proceedings in a sincere and earnest manner. Additionally, the Hebei Spirit’s owners and managers have confirmed that they will take all necessary measures to provide assistance to the Master and Chief Officer to enable them to attend the court hearings before the appellate court.

The continued detention by the Korean authorities, despite the acquittal and furthermore despite the assurances provided, appear unjustified and in violation of officers’ basic rights.

INSA, FOSMA and MASSA urge the Indian and International shipping community and other human rights organization to join them in their appeal to the Government of the Republic of Korea to take all necessary steps to permit the seafarers to return to their homes and reunite with their families.

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