OOCL may appeal manslaughter verdict

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 12:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 12:52am

Orient Overseas Container Line said it would consider lodging a "preliminary appeal" against the verdict of the French court that found the Hong Kong shipping line guilty of involuntary manslaughter over the death 11 years ago of Courtenay Allan, one of its senior executives.

Since an appeal can be lodged within 10 days of the verdict, yesterday was the last day to file the appeal, said a lawyer for the Allan family.

But Stephen Ng, a spokesman for OOCL, said: "Under the current situation, where the reasons for the verdict are still pending, and uncertain when they will come, we believe that a sensible legal approach is to lodge a 'preliminary appeal' at this time while the case is still proceeding in court."

This is a departure from the company's position after the verdict last week, when it said the company believed the closure of the case would be in the best interest of all concerned.

Ng said the company would continue to work with "relevant parties", including the French magistrate, suggesting expanding the court's inquiries to include the shipbuilders and lift manufacturers.

Allan was OOCL's London-based transatlantic trade director at the time of his death in 2003. He had been with the company for 37 years. He fell into a lift shaft on the container ship OOCL Montreal during a cocktail reception aboard the vessel when it was docked at the French port city of Le Havre.

Allan's three sons sent a letter to OOCL chairman Tung Chee-chen after the verdict, demanding an apology from the company and urging it to drop any plans of appeal.

According to the letter, the French trial indicated that Allan's death was caused through "means of human interference and tampering of the lift system that allowed the lift doors to open without the lift car in place".