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Neftegaz-67 master faces jail sentence

Large number of fatalities makes prison sentence


inevitable, says district court judge
Keith Wallis - Thursday 14 January 2010

YURIY Kulemesin, the Ukrainian master of offshore supply vessel Neftegaz-67 , is likely
to be jailed after being found guilty along with three other defendants on charges related
to endangering life as sea by a Hong Kong district court yesterday.

Judge Susana D’Almada Remedios indicated that a prison sentence was inevitable, partly
because of the large number of crew who died when the Neftegaz-67 collided with the
panamax bulk carrier Yao Hai on March 22, 2008. Eighteen Ukrainian crew on board the
supply ship died when the vessel capsized and sank after the collision.

The judge was commenting during a mitigation plea by Capt Kulemesin’s barrister,
James McGowan, who pointed out that the master lived and worked on board the vessel
and the crew were like family.

Mr McGowan said the master did not deliberately set out to endanger the safety of the
crew or the vessel and believed he was right in taking the course he did.

He pointed out that the master believed he was in a crossing situation under collision
regulations and in that situation had the right of way. Mr McGowan said he took no
action because Neftegaz-67 was the stand-on vessel. He said that Capt Kulemesin “felt he
was in the right”.

The 1,393 dwt Neftegaz-67 was heading west from Chiwan in southern China through
one of Hong Kong’s busiest shipping lanes when it collided with the 69,497 dwt laden
bulker Yao Hai , which was heading east for discharge in Shekou near Chiwan. The
collision occurred about 8 km east of Hong Kong International Airport.

Liu Bo, master of the Yao Hai , and two pilots, Tang Dock-wah and Bruce Chun, thought
they were sailing in a narrow channel. As a result, Rule 9 of Colregs applied and they had
right of way.

The three were also found guilty yesterday. Judge D’Almada Remedios suggested that at
least some of these three would be jailed when they are sentenced tomorrow. All four
face up to four years in jail and a fine of up to HK$200,000 ($26,000).
Responding to Mr Gowan’s mitigation, the judge said that while Capt Kulemesin and the
co-defendants may not have deliberately endangered life, all were guilty of the “most
serious errors of navigation and doing nothing about it”.

She said both vessels had seen each other for nearly three miles before the collision but
did not take any action until about 90 seconds before the collision when visibility was