French court to consider release of Turkish fatal collision ship
French appeal court is to rule in April 9 on an application from a Turkish shipping company for the release of a vessel that has been held in France since its involvement in a fatal collision in August 2007.
The 1978-built, 2,080 dwt general cargo carrier Ocean Jasper has been held in the port of Brest since its collision with the fishing vessel Sokalique in August 2007 off the coast of Brittany.
The skipper of the fishing vessel died in the incident and the French judicial authorities said at the time that there were grounds for thinking that the merchant vessel had fled the scene without offering assistance to the seven-man crew of Sokalique.
The vessel, which had continued on its southbound route after the accident despite attempts to contact it by the French authorities, was finally persuaded to come into the port of Brest after the French authorities contacted its operator, Istanbul-based Onurhan Denizcilik.
The shipping company has claimed, however, that the seizure of the vessel by France is illegal and that the case against the vessel should be handled by its flag state, Kiribati.
France said at one point that Kiribati had agreed to waive its first right of prosecution in its favour but it is not clear if this has been confirmed.
Acting for Ocean Jasper"s operator, Olivier Dersoir told the appeal court that the rights of the flag state under the Montego Bay Convention must be respected.
?The Montego Bay convention must be respected if we want it to be respected when French ships are accused of wrongdoing, for example, off Africa,? he said.
For the victims of the accident, however, Thierry Mudry argued that France had respected all the requisite procedures and had been granted the right to deal with the case by Kiribati.
?The advocate general (prosecutor) himself underlined that the rights of the flag state must be raised by the state itself and not by the shipping company,? he said.
The Azerbaijani master of Ocean Jasper and his second in command, who returned to Azerbaijan against the wishes of the French authorities shortly after the accident, are understood to have been charged by the authorities there, although it is not known whether or not they have been tried.