Charges Against Ocean Atlas Dropped, Captain and Crew Expected to Leave
The U.S.-flagged Ocean Atlas cargo ship and its crew are preparing to resume their journey within the day after Venezuelan authorities dropped arms trafficking charges against them.
Crewmembers have been in anonymous contact with some major U.S. media outlets and have informed them that some sort of positive resolution has been reached. The charges against both the captain and all the crewmen aboard the vessel have been dropped.
According to CNN, a U.S. State Department official confirmed that the charges have indeed been dropped, but Venezuela's Ministry of Communications had no information regarding the case.
The captain, Jeffrey Raider of Texas, was taken into custody last week and made a court appearance. He came back to the ship only once during its detainment, to move it from the docks to anchor in Maracaibo Bay. He was held on land, while the crew members were told to stay on the ship. The captain was finally able to return to the ship on Sunday after the charges were dropped.
According to crewmember recounts of this incident, there were normal shipboard conditions while the ship has been detained and no danger or threat of physical harm. Although the Venezuelan guards who boarded the ship were armed, the guns were pointed at the ground.
The crew has expressed sincere thanks to the Seafarer’s International Union (SIU) and Crowley Maritime, the ship’s manager, for updating their families on their status.
A State Department spokesman confirmed last week that the detention had to do with customs paperwork for rifles that were on board for the crew's protection. With the current threat of piracy on the high seas, it's generally normal for many ships to have some type of self-defense on board.
Read the original report and initial updates here.