First and foremost, the Ocean Atlas is sailing again and we are grateful that the crew is underway. Our union’s motto is “Brotherhood of the Sea,” and we consider every mariner aboard the Ocean Atlas part of our SIU family. That sentiment most definitely also applies to the officers, who are represented by the Seafarers-affiliated American Maritime Officers union.
We extend sincere thanks to everyone who helped bring this saga to a successful conclusion. Our appreciation goes to the U.S. State Department, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, former U.S. Congressman William Delahunt, Crowley Maritime, Intermarine, the American Maritime Officers, the U.S. Consulate in Maracaibo, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Apostleship of the Sea, the Ocean Atlas seafarers and their families. We especially appreciate the consistently upbeat attitude maintained by the crew, and we are humbled by their public acknowledgment of our efforts throughout the ordeal.
Not to be overlooked, we also thank the Venezuelan government for its professionalism and for treating the American mariners fairly and respectfully. Notwithstanding the local delays in Maracaibo, the central Venezuelan government officials at the highest levels in Caracas ably assisted throughout the process and were instrumental in securing the vessel’s ultimate release.
Understandably, the media reports concerning the Ocean Atlas at times have missed the mark on certain details. Venezuelan officials acted appropriately, based on information sent from Colombia regarding a missed inspection of the vessel’s cargo. Venezuelan law enforcement authorities, as part of their ongoing commitment to assist other nations in trying to curtail the movement and distribution of illegal drugs, investigated a report made by Colombian authorities that the ship could be carrying narcotics.
The search confirmed that the ship was not carrying any narcotics, though it did find that the Ocean Atlas was carrying declared weapons (rifles) for potential use by security teams when the ship traverses high-risk waters such as the Gulf of Aden. Carrying such weapons is common practice, given the ongoing battle against maritime piracy. The ship detention resulted from what amounted to an administrative mistake by a local customs agent. The Ocean Atlas itself did everything properly.
Again, we are thrilled and relieved to know the crew is underway, and we thank all the organizations that worked together to reach a satisfactory conclusion.