South Korea’s Supreme Court dismissed charges against the master and chief officer last month, but kept the pair in the country awaiting a lower court decision that the charges against them should be dismissed.
The widely backed lobby for the release of the Hebei Two had expressed fears that a lower court decision to dismiss the case could take anything up to six months.
According to Satnam Kumar, V.Ships' Asia managing director of ship management, there was a hearing of the lower court in Korea on Tuesday.
The case is due to be heard again on June 11, with the lower court affirming that the charges should be dropped.
“We are confident by that time they will be able to return to India,” V.Ships president Roberto Giorgi said.
The pair have not been allowed to leave South Korea since the very large crude carrier Hebei Spirit was holed by a crane barge and spilled oil in December 2007.
In short, on December 7, 2007, a Samsung barge broke free from its tugboats and collided with the anchored Hebei Spirit, spilling 10,800 tonnes of oil into the waters off Taean, and though the tugboat captains were found primarily responsible, the two Indian captain and chief officer of the Hebei Spirit were sentenced to 18-month and 8-month sentences, respectively. They were not only essentially held accountable for simply being there, they were, you might say, held accountable for being foreign. More information on Free the Hebei Spirit.