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Friday, December 15, 2017

INTERTANKO STRONGLY CRITISISES THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF MASTER OF NISSOS AMORGOS BY VENEZUELA

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) has denounced the continued detention of captain Konstadinos Spyropoulos, master of the DWT 89.000, Greek Flag tanker Nissos Amorgos, by the Venezuelan authorities.

The ship was freed on 21 July, after being detained for nearly 5 months, and it was hoped that Captain Syropoulos, too, would be released prior to the Venezuelan courts soon taking their month-long summer recess on 15 August. It is understood, however, that the Prosecutor-General of the Zulia Province, who needs to formulate charges against the Greek master in order to lay them before the Judge of the Cabimas Court as a prelude to the release being granted, will not now take such action before the 15 August deadline.

"This total lack of action on the part of the Venezuelan authorities with respect to Captain Spyropoulos is most shameful and constitutes a basic infringement of recognised human rights", states Dagfinn Lunde, Managing Director of INTERTANKO. "INTERTANKO calls upon the Venezuelan authorities to solve this deplorable situation immediately and at the highest level. With the continued detention of Captain Spyropoulos, in direct contravention of not only the convention on human rights but also international marine oil spill compensation and liability treaties to which it is a signatory, Venezuela runs the risk of being ostracised by its trading partners and censure by the United nations".

Nissos Amorgos struck bottom while being piloted down the Maracaibo Channel just before midnight on 28 February 1997, and leaked 7000 tonnes of oil. She was one of three tankers to go aground in the waterway within a period of 6 weeks. Captain Spyropoulos claims that his tanker had struck a submerged object during the pilot-assisted passage. The Venezuelan navy carried out a survey of the channel subsequent to the incidents. Preliminary, and, as yet, still unofficial, findings point to alleged underwater bank collapses in the Channel as well as the presence of widespread silting and a number of large "metallic objects" on the bed of the waterway.

Throughout the past five months a number of positive initiatives have been taken to meet local demands arising out of the Nissos Amorgos grounding. In recent weeks Captain Spyropoulos has asked for his freedom on compassionate grounds, pointing out that his family has not seen him for almost a year and that his father in law is gravely ill. In addition, assurances that Captain Spyropoulos, if freed, would return to Venezuela at a later date to participate in the court case against him have been made by the Greek Consul in Maracaibo, and the master himself.

Despite these efforts, no formal charges have yet been levelled against the ship's captain nor has his case been dismissed in court. "INTERTANKO disapproves of, in the strongest manner possible, any attempt by governments to characterise the conduct of masters as criminal for the primary purpose of pressuring the shipowner through their employers, especially when such action involves the detention of a person without charge or any ascertainable basis over alleged wrong doings", asserts Dagfinn Lunde.

In one final attempt to secure the Captain’s release, INTERTANKO is making direct contact with Fiscal General de la Republica, Dr Ivan Darion Badell and also direct contact with Judge Colmenares, who has jurisdiction of the Maracaibo region, requesting their intervention.