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nolatom 01-22-2008 12:53 PM

Not sailing-related, but I don't like this trend..

More in the trend to make working commercial mariners into criminals..

Yes, it was a very serious oil spill from a lawfully anchored supertanker, which was lawfully at anchor when hit by a drifting crane barge whose two tugs had lost control of the barge in really bad weather. There's likely nothing the tanker could've done to "get out of the way", it just doesn't work that way with ships of that size.

So who, along with the tug and barge captains, gets indicted by the South Korean authorities? The master and mate of the tanker HEBEI SPIRIT, that's who.

Maybe we'll learn more as things progress, but the regrettable trend by all countries (including the US) is to bring criminal charges first, and ask questions later.

Anyone wonder why a career at sea in the merchant marine isn't attractive to young people? You're sitting at anchor, get hit, and next thing you know you're in jail, or out on bail.

Yes, in cases of intentional pollution, it's justified. But too often where there's an accident (and a spill, which gets the publicity), the bureaucrats ashore are very quick to make it into a criminal charge, detain crewmembers for months (even years). Not a risk that professional mariners will want to take, it seems to me.

Moderators, bump this to another forum if you want, but that's my rant for the time being. The "criminilization of seafarers" is definitely a problem. Theoretically, the same attitude could affect "rag sailors" who find themselves in an accident, whether in the US or elsewhere.

hellosailor 01-22-2008 01:14 PM

Jumping at shadows, Tom. That link says very little but here's the key:

"The tanker...captain and mate were indicted but not detained for failing to follow safety orders from navigation authorities, the prosecutors said. (Source: AFP)"

If the USCG told you "don't anchor there" and you didn't listen to them, wouldn't you expect to have a problem? All that we know, is that some official instructed the tanker to do or not do something--and the tanker's captain failed to comply.

Ever get a ticket for standing in a no-standing zone? That might be all it is.

nolatom 01-22-2008 01:18 PM

Yes, if I anchored where I shouldn't have, I agree. But info I've heard (and I'll wait for the final word) is that the anchored position was legal, they were asked if they could move out of the way of this drifting barge, and couldn't:

Yeah, let's wait and see, but if they think this ship could've got underway or shifted position (in 14 minutes according to the above) during a storm so as to make this drifting barge miss this large ship, pleeeease give me a break. The pressure is on local authorities to throw the book at everyone whenever there's a spill.

Now South Korea is taking steps to ban single-skin tankers (which are being phased out anyway) from their waters. One would not expect them to place any blame on themselves.

Again, let's let it play out, but my view going in is that this is a heck of a way to end up with a criminal charge.

hellosailor 01-22-2008 01:44 PM

Bear in mind this is also Korea. North or South, it is still a very different place from the US. The authorities might lose face if they DIDN'T arrest everyone, and over there "face" counts way more than whether you are right or wrong. Especially if you represent the State.

chucklesR 01-22-2008 01:45 PM

Barge broke free at 6;52am, 1 to 2 miles away from the tanker, but hit the tanker at 7:06am and they say he had time to move????
14 minutes from loose to hit - no telling how long it took for the tugs or the anchor watch to figure it would hit him - so be reasonable and say five or ten minutes notice.
Not unless he was already manned up, engines running, and anchor watch set he didn't - How long does it take us to get underway on our itty bitty boats?
this won't stand any review at all.

hellosailor 01-22-2008 02:00 PM

Come on, Chuckles. These are Koreans, the same people who cut two inches off the chair legs at the Korean War "armistice" talks at the end of the first day, because the damn gwai-jun were all taller than they were, and that was an intolerable insult and loss of face. (All the allied chairs rocked on the second morning, no one could figure out why.)

A State Official says "Move the boat" and the only tolerable answer is "Sir Yes Sir!" whether it is physically impossible or not. If the captain made the mistake of laughing and saying "that's just not possible" then he did, in their terms, commit an egregious crime.

sailingdog 01-22-2008 02:08 PM

Cultural context is very important in looking at a situation like this... looking at it with American or European eyes is not a good idea. :)

nolatom 01-22-2008 02:20 PM

North Korea, sure. Expect irrationality.

But South Korea is a major maritime shipbuilder (Hyundai and others), trader, flag state and supplier of crews to ships of all nations. They should react more objectively.

This "criminal charges first, questions later" worldwide is a bad thing for the merchant marine. Who wants take that kind of risk?

Valiente 01-22-2008 04:07 PM

I'm aware that it would likely take some time to bring vast diesel engines online in a tanker, but would the usual procedure in a storm be to have them on to power pumps or to ride up to the anchor if things got squirrelly?

I'm asking because I don't know. For me, having a warm engine idling at anchor would be an easy decision once it got past 30 knots no matter how well I was anchored, because I can neither count on others not coming loose, or simple failure of my rode or the rodes of others, or I might need to "pluck and run" or simply to zoom forward to avoid debris.

I can't imagine that an exponentially larger vessel with cargo aboard and more windage, in conditions that tugs wouldn't be able to maneuver easily, might keep the motors fired up just in case they needed to get underway, or simply to reduce the strain on the main anchor by motoring at low speed toward it.

Am I wrong here? I'm not trying to second-guess the tanker skipper, but I don't know under what circumstances of "storm anchoring" you wouldn't consider being one command away from having a moving prop.

nolatom 01-22-2008 05:17 PM

I don't know, but with a direct-drive diesel, you either have the engine (and prop) turning, or you don't, and there's a minimum forward speed, you can't just "idle" as I understand it. So I don't know if running dead slow ahead would've helped or hurt, if the anchor was already holding all right. It might have increased yawing if it put slack in the chain(s).

I'll defer to others with bigger licenses, but to requote something I heard long ago, "When there's a casualty at sea, there are many wise men on shore". I'm just wary of the tendency of this "wisdom" resulting in hasty criminal charges.

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