After having detained the U.S.-flagged Ocean Atlas for more than a week in Maracaibo, Venezuelan authorities have dropped the charges against the captain and 14 crew of weapons smuggling.
Venezuela releases Ocean Atlas
Venezuelan authorities have dropped charges against the captain and 14 crewmembers of the U.S.-flag Ocean Atlas, an Intermarine heavy-lift vessel, detained for more than a week in Maracaibo.
The ship and crew, which were detained under an alleged weapons smuggling investigation, are expected to set sail Monday or Tuesday, CNN reported early Monday.
The Ocean Atlas docked at Maracaibo on Aug. 29, when the vessel was searched on suspicion of drug-smuggling. No drugs were found but three rifles were found locked in a weapons arsenal used by the vessel’s security team during a recent transit of the Gulf of Aden.
Capt. Jeffrey Raider of Texas and the crew were charged with arms trafficking on Sept. 5. The captain was held on land while crewmembers were told to stay aboard the ship.
The U.S.-based Seafarers International Union, which represents about half the ship’s crew, said union officials were in touch with the vessel and Intermarine. U.S. embassy officials monitored the situation and a consular official was on-site and involved, media outlets reported. Crowley Maritime, the ship’s manager, updated the families of crew, CNN reported.
One Ocean Atlas crewmember, Russell Macomber of Ormond Beach, Fla., kept in touch with family and narrated the crew’s plight on his Facebook page with his smart phone.
The multipurpose Ocean Atlas, built in 2000, has sailed under the U.S. flag since 2002. The 393-foot heavy-lift ship has two cranes, according to Intermarine’s Web site.
Source: Break Bulk
Photo of Intermarine Ocean Atlas courtesy of Intermarine.