Venezuela drops arms trafficking charges against U.S. ship crew
Caracas, Venezuela (4E) – Venezuelan authorities on Monday dropped arms trafficking charges against 15 American crew of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship ending their two-week detention at the port of Maracaibo, according to the shipowner.
Houston-based Intermarine LLC, which owns the Ocean Atlas, issued a statement from its vice president Will Terrill confirming that the charges were dropped and the captain was allowed to return to the ship.
Venezuelan customs authorities found undocumented weapons onboard the ship when it docked at Maracaibo on Aug. 29 leading to the detention of the ship and its crew.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the rifles of the ship’s security team were declared by the captain to Venezuela’s customs authority upon arrival but these were later declared illegal and confiscated. Arms trafficking charges were then filed against the crew.
Forbes.com reported that Virginia-based Nexus Consulting provided the security team and their weapons to protect the crew against pirates when sailing off Somalia and Yemen.
The ship captain and representatives from the State Department worked with Venezuelan authorities for the release of the ship and its crew. The Seafarers International Union, American Maritime Officers, Intermarine and Crowley Liner Services, which operates the ship, helped apprise families of the crew members on the latter’s condition.
A crew member who declined to be identified said they were treated well by Venezuelan authorities.