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Fishing boat and oil tanker both guilty: Coast Guard

Dec 13,2017
Authorities said that both the fishing boat and the oil tanker are responsible for the collision that left 15 dead on Dec. 3 in the waters off Incheon.

“The captain of the fishing boat was in the steering room at the time of the collision, according to testimonies from the passengers on the boat,” Shin Yong-hee, head of the investigation bureau of Korea Coast Guard’s Incheon branch, said in a press conference on Tuesday. “The captain of the oil tanker [a 37-year-old surnamed Jeon] was also likely in the steering room at the time of the collision because he made an SOS report through the Vessel Traffic Services [VTS] immediately after the collision.”

He continued, “According to the testimonies of the passengers on the fishing boat, they saw the oil tanker when it was some 200 to 300 meters [650 to 980 feet] from the boat. And Jeon also said he saw the fishing boat before the collision but thought the boat would try to get out of the way on its own.”

Right before the collision, police said the oil tanker was going at 12 knots, so the oil tanker likely had a minute to change its course when it saw the boat. There was no sound of alerts from either of the vessels, passengers told police.

Because both captains are suspected to have been in the steering room and were aware of each vessel’s location some time before the collision, police said both captains are responsible for professional negligence.

Police on Tuesday requested that the prosecution indict Jeon and the oil tanker’s deck hand, a 46-year-old surnamed Kim, for accidental homicide. At the time of the collision, Kim was supposed to be with the captain in the steering house to look out for possible dangers on the waters, according to navigation regulations, but was in the engine room.

Police had booked the fishing boat’s captain, a 70-year-old surnamed Oh, for accidental homicide, but since he died in the collision, police dropped the case on Oh.

The 9.77-ton fishing boat and the 366-ton oil tanker collided in waters southwest of Incheon, near the Yeongheung Island, on Dec. 3. There were 22 people on the fishing boat. Seven survived. All people on the oil tanker survived.

“I don’t think the oil tanker captain purposefully rammed into the fishing boat, because he reported the collision to authorities immediately,” Shin said. “The oil tanker captain had also told police that the fishing boat disappeared from the radar before the collision, which is possible because sometimes different radio waves could collide, making vessels temporarily disappear from radar.”

Authorities are internally investigating whether marine police responded to the collision as promptly as possible.

There were some discrepancies regarding the time of collision and the time of arrival by marine police to the site. The times were adjusted a few times over the course of the marine police’s rescue and investigation.

“We will comment on that once the internal investigation completes,” Shin said.

BY OH WON-SEOK, ESTHER CHUNG, LIM YOUNG-SOO [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]