Republic of Korea
Marine Pollution, Criminal

This case concerns oil pollution to the marine environment caused by a collision between a tugboat and a large oil tanker (Hebei Ship) in the Taean peninsula. The oil tanker defendants (Defendants 1) are charged under the Prevention of Marine Pollution Act and the Criminal Act with failure to fulfill the duty of care to prevent a collision and subsequent pollution. The tugboat defendants (Defendant 2) were charged under the same acts with a failure to exercise and fulfill the duty of care to prevent a collision. The court first held that Defendants 1 and  2 had various duties of care as to safe navigation of the tugboats  and Hebi Ship. In addition, the defendants failed to comply with standards under the Marine Transportation Safety Act. Secondly, the court reasoned that “if the Hebei Ship crew after the oil tank destruction exercised its duty of care to prevent pollution, they could have reduced the degree of the oil spill due to the collision; but, failure to exercise that duty does not cut off the causal relation between the act causing the risk of an oil spill and the actual oil spill of here whereby the tugboats caused a puncture on Hebei Ship oil tank which led to the risk of an oil spill.” Thus, under the Criminal Act, the lower court’s opinion in rejecting the assertion of unforeseeability of lawful navigation is supported. However, the court found that A mere puncture in part of an oil tank in a large oil tanker and destruction of a foremast, satellite antenna, navigation lamp, and etc. do not constitute "destruction" of ship under the Criminal Act. Therefore, the court held that, with regard to defendant 2, the crime of destroying a ship by occupational negligence, violation of the Prevention of Marine Pollution Act, apportionment of litigation costs related to the defendant 1, and the crime of destroying a ship by occupational negligence as to the defendants 3 and 4 were all reversed and those parts are remanded to the court below for a new trial and determination.

(Source: Republic of Korea Supreme Court,, last accessed 19/07/2018)