Saturday, April 19, 2014

South Korea: Update--Third Mate, Taking the Helm for the First Time...Unsupervised...When Ferry Capsized

According to Fox News, the third mate, Park Han-kyul, 25, was at the helm of the South Korean ferry that capsized on Wednesday (April 16)...for the very first time...unsupervised.
The ferry, carrying 475 passengers that sank on Wednesday, thus far has killed 32, leaving 270 missing.

Reportedly, because the ferry left port late, due to heavy fog, the third mate was steering the ship through the waters. Prosecutors have not confirmed whether the ship was going faster than usual.

Prosecutors said the ferry captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested early Saturday (April 19) along with helmsman, Cho Joon-ki, 55, and the ship's 25-year-old third mate.

The trio was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

The captain was arrested amid reports that an inexperienced crew member may have been at the ship's control when it overturned; survivors' claims that the crew did not act swiftly enough to evacuate passengers, most of whom were high school-student passengers.

Lee faces five charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Correction: I erroneously said yesterday that the vice-principal survived his suicide attempt, which was not the case. The vice-principal died from his own actions. 

COMMENT: The ferry, known as the Sewol, are examining the sharp turn the ferry took just before it began listing and trying to determine whether the captain abandoned the boat.

According to facts available, investigators are attempting to determine whether the captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was in the first lifeboat off the ship.

Speaking of maritime policy, it is suggested that our global maritime community get their collective heads together until they can agree on the the rules of engagement in terms of the role of a master or captain in emergency situations, to wit:

"The captain of a commercial passenger vessel should be the last to step off of a doomed ship."

Prosecutors have said that the captain was not present on the bridge when the ship was passing through an area with many islands clustered closely together, something he said is required by law so the captain can help a mate make a turn. 

Prosecutor Park Jae-eok said in a briefing that investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn whose angle was so sharp that it caused the ship to list and capsize.

Rescuers have scheduled some 40 dives on Saturday in an attempt to enter the ferry and retrieve at least some of the more than 270 people missing. 

Identified as Kang Min-kyu, the vice-principal  was the leader of the students traveling on a school excursion. In his suicide note, Kang said he felt guilty for surviving and wanted to take responsibility for what happened because he had led the trip.