It can be interesting to note that the ordeal of
these [Hebei Spirit] senior officers is quite contrasting
with the one of a certain Korean captain Dae Pung Gang
who in 1993 was in command of the Panamanian handy size
bulker Western Winner when it collided in dense fog with the stopped tanker
"British Trent" causing a fire and 9 deadly casualties on the Bermuda ship.
First of all that master was not on the bridge
during the short passage from Thames while fog patches were foreseen, he asked
the mate to call him one hour before arriving at the pilot station, leaving to
him to cross the main TSS Noord Hinder-Dover. During my time as master I never
imagined not to be on the bridge in this area, even with the best visibility, on
the Western Winner the logged visibility near the TSS was one mile.
Afterwards it appeared that the Western Winner was
not aware of the notices to be given to the VTS of the Scheldt approaches, and
did not provided them either and in fact did not even know there was a VTS.
So much for the passage planning.
The master came on the bridge at 0440, 1 h 23 minutes before the collision.
In spite of the worsening visibility he kept the engine on full sea speed
until 0530 to reduce to full maneuvering speed, doing still 11.5 knots
with a visibility of 200 to 50 meters when the collision occurred!
The speed of the British Trent was extremely slow
as it had just disembarked the pilot in a small launch.
The British MAIB tried to conduct an inquiry on behalf of the Bermuda authorities,
but was mostly prevented to do so by solicitors on the Western Winner
when the ship was lying for repair in Flushing, a Dutch port.
He could obtain factual information from the Belgian and Panamanian inspectors.
In 1996 the Belgian court of Bruges, ruled to have
no jurisdiction to hear charges of manslaughter against the master of the
Western Winner because of the way the International Convention on Shipping
Accidents of 1952 had been enacted into the Belgian law.
At the same time an UK inquest delivered a
verdict of unlawful killing and the MAIB said that the master of the
bulker had committed 'every possible navigational sin'.
Later however the master had been charged of
manslaughter by the Belgian authorities, but he had since long disappeared.
In 2001, the British Martin Callanan, an European MP, pressed the Belgian
authorities to require from South Korea the extradition of the master of the
British Trent, and the vice-president of the European, Commission, Mrs.Loyola de
Palacio asked our minister of transport, Isabelle Durant to take action, but
since then I heard nothing any more of the case.
Moral: it is much better to be the Korean master of a vessel
doing full speed in dense fog an killing 9 people in Belgium,
than to be the Indian master of an anchored tanker which
had been rammed by a Korean vessel making in the process a
large pollution that kills nobody in Korea.