Captain of U.S.-Flagged Ocean Atlas Held in Venezuela Amid Weapons Smuggling Investig

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by tankercaptain, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    The American Captain of the U.S.-flagged heavy-lift carrier MV Ocean Atlas has been detained by Venezuelan authorities amid an alleged weapons smuggling investigation, gCaptain sources have confirmed.

    According to our sources, the Ocean Atlas was boarded by INTERPOL, local police, and members of Venezuelas’ drug enforcement agency shortly after tying up in Maracaibo, Venezuela on Wednesday August 29, claiming that they had received a tip that the vessel was smuggling drugs.

    A search of the Ocean Atlas failed to turn up any drugs, however, authorities found a locked-away weapons arsenal used by the vessel’s security team during a recent transit of the pirate infested waters of the Gulf of Aden.

    Details from this point are a bit unclear. We know for certain that the American Captain has been detained and taken off the vessel (and returned at times), although we do not know if any official charges have been filed. Reports indicate that the weapons had been listed on the ship’s manifest and given clearance prior to entering port.

    At this time we understand that the ship itself has not been arrested but remains in the country until the captain is released or another captain arrives to take command of the vessel.

    “The disturbing aspect of the matter in Venezuela is the possible politicization by the Chavez regime of the world-wide trend toward criminalization of the master and officers. This has occurred before in that state in similar circumstances such as in the cases of the B Atlantic (2007) and the Astro Saturn(2008) which seem similar in some respects to this case.” says Dr. John A C Cartner, a world recognized maritime security expert and author of the book The International Law of the Shipmaster. “These are well-worn ways toward arresting first, asking questions later and in some cases waiting a year or more before moving toward charge and trial or release.”

    The Ocean Atlas has 15 crewmembers. Reports indicate that the weapons had been listed on the ship’s manifest and given clearance prior to entering port.

    The M/V Ocean Atlas, one of four heavy-lift vessels of Intermarine’s U.S.-flag heavy-lift affiliate, U.S. Ocean, is operated by Crowley and manned by AMO union officers and SIU crew. The 8,000 DWT vessel, with 400 metric tons lifting capacity, is particularly well suited for the movement of project/heavy-lift and military cargoes, the Intermarine website says. The Ocean Atlas has 15 crewmembers.
    Intermarine and Crowley have not yet made any comments concerning the incident.
     
  2. EDelahanty

    EDelahanty Member

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    Venezuela has a presidential election in early October. Surprising that Chavez didnt board the ship to make the arrest himself.
     
  3. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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  4. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    The sister of another crew member, who has been in regular contact with her brother and asked not to be identified for security reasons, said crew members held aboard the ship have heard that the captain has been charged with arms trafficking. The captain was detained after he refused to let authorities arrest the crew, she said.
     
  5. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    INTERPOL is involved? For some declared security weapons? Details unclear? Reelection coming up? Hugo needs another trip to Cuba for the brain transplant.
     
  6. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    EVENING UPDATE: gCaptain has received word from sources aboard the ship that ship was visited this evening by State Department representatives from the American Consulate. Further, the location and status of the Captain remains unknown by the crew and gCaptain’s sources in Washington. gCaptain has also learned that tomorrow some of the crew will be taken to shore for questioning by local authorities. gCaptain will continue coverage of this unprecedented event as new information is uncovered.
     
  7. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    The captain had reportedly declared the weapons upon arrival in port and received clearance, but the Venezuelan authorities now said the ship didn't have permission to have them on board and confiscated them.The ship was then under investigation for arms trafficking, and earlier this week, the ship had been officially charged.
    Shortly after, the captain made a court appearance, followed by 20 to 30 armed soldiers demanding to be let on board. They held the crew at gunpoint before sending them to the mess. They then met with the captain in his office and took him away. The captain hasn't returned to the ship, but has talked on the phone to the chief mate.
    Many have been told that the captain has been charged with arms trafficking. The captain was detained after he refused to let authorities arrest the crew.
     
  8. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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  9. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    Diplomatic drive underway in Ocean Atlas case

    American Maritime Officers, the Seafarers International Union, Crowley Liner Services and Intermarine LLC are working closely with the U.S. Department of State to obtain the safe release of the officers and crew aboard the U.S.-flagged heavy-lift ship Ocean Atlas, which is under detention by the Venezuelan government in the port of Maracaibo.
    *** The ship's captain, a member of our union, is being held ashore without charge, and the remaining 14 officers and crewmembers are confined to the vessel. AMO represents the engine and deck officers on the Ocean Atlas, and the SIU represents the crew. Crowley manages and operates the vessel for Intermarine.
    *** Reliable reports indicate that all of the ship's personnel are in good health, and that there is no mistreatment of the captain or others. We are withholding the names of the captain, the engine and deck officers and the crew to protect their families' privacy.
    *** This is a coordinated diplomatic effort. AMO, the SIU, Crowley and Intermarine are in frequent contact with the State Department in Washington, with the U.S. Consulate in Maracaibo and with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. The unions and the companies confer daily on the situation, and they have spoken with the families of the ship's officers and crew.
    *** AMO will not comment publicly on the sensitive circumstances that led to the official detention of the Ocean Atlas in Venezuela or speculate on the possible outcome of this unfortunate, difficult situation. The State Department is engaged fully in this case, in Washington and on the scene in Venezuela. We do not want to compromise delicate negotiations or jeopardize the ship's civilian American complement.
    *** Our immediate priority is the return of the vessel's officers and crew, unharmed and at the earliest practical opportunity. Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with the mariners and families involved
     
  10. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Peacetime detention scenarios are unpleasant. That said, I have confidence a solution will be reached.
     
  11. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    According to sources aboard the vessel the M/V Ocean Atlas has been cleared of all charges and is awaiting release from Venezuala.

    Since early morning Thursday when the news first broke on gCaptain’s forum, the vessel has received a high level of support from within the maritime industry but there has been very little reported action taken by US Authorities. Leading the effort to free the vessel where the SIU and AMO unions that represent the vessel’s crew as well as The Apostleship Of The Sea and the Council Of American Master Mariners.

    It has been confirmed that State Department officials did visit the ship but very little additional information is known about actions taken by the American government. The United States Maritime Administration did not return gCaptain’s call for comment.

    The news of the vessel’s pending release, sent to gCaptain via crewmember Russell Macomber, arrived shortly after the Captain, Jeffrey Michael Raider of Texas, was temporarily returned to the vessel to move her from dock to a nearby anchorage. It was also noted by Macomber that Raider was in good spirits and was treated well throughout the inquiry.

    The vessel is expected to sailing late tonight or tomorrow.
     
  12. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    Glad to hear that this is getting resolved.

    Stealth_81
     
  13. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    Also glad to hear that this travesty which did not make the front page for Hugo has been resolved. No State Department action. Why even ask. The "PUEBLO" got headlines but this didn't.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012

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