Go to contents

Chinese Vessel Suspected of “Hit-and-Run” Attempt

Posted May. 14, 2007 07:45,   


Sharp criticism is arising over allegations that the crew on the Chinese container ship Jinsheng neglected the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), after they kept sailing away after colliding with the Korean freighter Golden Rose, leaving 16 lives in need of rescue behind them.

“They have irresponsibly broken agreements formed between states by disregarding the seamen crying out for help. The Korean government has to take diplomatic measures to punish this misdeed of the Chinese,” said the families of the missing sailors.

Arousing Criticism-

Pundits of maritime affairs say that the Chinese sailors deserve censure for leaving the site without rescuing the Koreans in such an emergency.

Kim Yeong-gu, a retired professor of law at Korea Maritime University, said, “Even if the automatic distress signal transmitter of the Korean vessel was out of order, if the staff members of Jinsheng had taken action to rescue the sailors and sent SOS signals, the Chinese government could have provided immediate support.”

He argues that if the Chinese authorities were not informed about the accident until seven hours it took place, it is evident that the Chinese crew didn’t follow even the most rudimentary procedures.

The sailors of the Jinsheng could be punished by their own domestic law. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that vessels that have received SOS signals or crashed into other ships are obliged to render assistance to the victims. Conventions such as SOLAS or Search And Rescue (SAR) established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also have similar clauses.

Since China is a member state to the IMO, the crew of the Jinsheng could be punished under their domestic law. An official in the Search and Rescue Division of the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) said, “Although the Chinese vessel, according to SOLAS standard procedures, had the obligation to provide assistance, they did nothing close to that.”

“Likely to be a hit-and-run case”-

Experts in maritime affairs argue that the Jinsheng crew was trying to flee from the scene. A KCG official in the Search and Rescue Division said, “It is a matter of common sense to clarify where responsibility lies after an accident, just like when a car crashes on land. The fact that the Chinese vessel ran away from the site demonstrates that it is very likely they were responsible for the incident.” The KCG believes that the Chinese cargo ship hit the Golden Rose on the side.

The KCG guesses that it must have taken less than 10 minutes for the Golden Rose to sink, as it was carrying 5,900 tons of metallic coils.

The collision took place at 4:05 a.m. on May 12. The sailors must have had trouble finding their life jackets, due to the heavy mist and darkness.

2.5 hours to take action-

The Korean Consulate General in Qingdao and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China disagreed with assertions that the Chinese government responded too slowly to the situation.

The Chinese authorities began a search operation 2 hours and 35 minutes after they first received the report. Although this could be regarded as too late by Korean standards, considering the bureaucratic procedures of sending the report to and receiving orders from the central government in Beijing past the local government of Shandong Province, two hours is a reasonable time span, according to the embassy.

Foreign officials said that Shandong Province Governor Ha Yuqun issued an order to “mobilize all possible measures to search for the sailors.” Rescue operations continued throughout the night on May 12.

China dispatched an air-sea rescue helicopter to the site at 2:15 p.m. and found two lifeboats and some articles from the wrecked ship.

The KCG is also facing backlash, as it took more than six hours for them to file a report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at 8:11 p.m., after receiving the initial report about the incident at 1:58 p.m. on May 12, from Bukwang Shipping Co., a Busan-based company.

A KGC official explained, “We took all necessary measures, such as sending rescue requests. It just took us some time after we first received the initial report to figure out the status of the rescue operations and whether the freighter sank.”