OSV crew detained in Angola for months under ‘false charges’

Two Croatian offshore workers have reportedly been held captive by the Angolan authorities, under what they claim to be false charges for  ship fuel theft.

According to Croatian media, the two seafarers Vanja Maričić i Duško Jelača, have been unable to leave Angola for almost three months.

The pair sailed on the Sutton Tide platform supply vessel owned by Sonatide, a joint venture between Tidewater and Sonangol, when they were arrested in late March 2017.

Novi List has written that the shipowner reported the crew, including the two men, of stealing fuel from the vessel, leading to their arrest in the Soyo port of Angola on March 24.

Describing the arrest, one of the people in question told to Novi List: “More than forty policemen were waiting for us at the dock, together with the company representatives. They then started searching the command bridge, they dismantled and turned everything upside down.“

The seafarer said that after an hour of search the company representative asked him what was going on.

“I replied that I did not know and that I assumed that it was a police exercise because at that point I couldn’t have imagined that something like this could happen.“

He said that while the raid found no irregularities, the police seized the seafarer’s passports, and took the crew to a local police station for interrogation.

It was only then that the crew found out what the charges were – a theft of 104 cubic meters of ship fuel.

“One of the crew members had reported to the company that on March 1, between 3 and 6 am in the territorial waters of the Congo, we unloaded the fuel from the ship to another vessel,“ the captain of the ship.

The company then, based on that report, informed the police, leading to the detainment of the crew, which has denied the fuel theft allegations.

The captain further said that all the information on the charges were given in an unofficial manner „because they did not give us any official documents, even though they took our passports and put us to a hotel.“

He also said that a police inspector then came to the hotel, asking from the crew to sign some documents in Portuguese – which they do not speak. The crew, also including two Ukrainians and one Russian, refused and, according to the captain, it would later turn out the documents were an admission of guilt for all the criminal offenses they had been charged with.

The Croatian Sailors Union

In a statement on Tuesday, the Croatian Sailors’ Union said it was doing everything in its power to make life easier for the two sailors in custody. The union has also reached out to the ITF seeking support.

“It is an accusation without arguments. This is a strange story started by the company (shipowner) to prevent or deter, workers from doing similar acts. We believe they chose Angola as a place known for corruption to be able to perform the move, but they chose the wrong crew.”

The union further said, “the evidence clearly shows that there was no shortage of fuel on the ship, nor that there was a surplus of 104 cubic meters which could have been sold.”

The two Croatian sailors along with other crew members, reportedly from the Philippines, Ukraine, and Russia, are not allowed to leave the country for the duration of the investigation. Angolan crew members have been released.

Sonatide did not respond to Offshore Energy Today’s request for comment on the case.

As for the vessel itself, the Sutton Tide’s latest AIS data show it is an operation, having recently left Total’s Pazflor field, offshore Angola.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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