Twenty-six people, comprising the masters and owners of 13 oil and chemical tankers and their relevant company officials, have been charged with violating the Maritime Safety Act.
The Ulsan Coast Guard is investigating the owners for their suspected failure to comply with safety regulations after their tankers were caught between April and August sailing through areas in Ulsan that were demarcated as being off-limits to navigation.
In a bid to reinforce the safety management of ships carrying liquid cargo, the voyage records and cargo loads of some 5,000 ships carrying crude oil, oil products, and chemicals are currently being scrutinised. Of these, 300 coastal tankers have been under intensive surveillance.
One tanker carrying more than 1,300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and petroleum had allegedly passed through the out-of-bounds area 63 times between January 2014 and May 2015.
The investigation has revealed that the vessels in question sailed through the out-of-bounds area because it provided a shortcut to Busan, cutting the journey by an hour and saving at least 300 litres of bunkers.
Captains could be held liable if their vessels run aground or cause major accidents, while masters and owners of tankers carrying at least 1,300 tonnes of oil products or chemicals through the off-limits area can be fined up to KRW10 million (USD8,500) or jailed for up to a year.