16 Indian sailors working on the oil-carrying ship MT Heroic Idun have been “illegally” detained by Equatorial Guinea for more than 80 days. These Indians, who are part of the 26-member crew, have been in custody in this country situated on the west coast of Central Africa since August 14. Apart from Indian sailors, the crew members of this ship include 8 sailors of Sri Lankan origin while one member each from the Philippines and Poland.
These sailors are in custody for more than 80 days
According to the crew members, his ship was captured by a naval ship of Equatorial Guinea on 12 August on international waters, brought to the port of Luba under naval surveillance and threatened with legal action.
This ship was arrested at the behest of Nigeria.
According to the plan, the MT Heroic Idun ship was to load crude oil at AKPO terminal in Nigeria on 8 August, but the loading operation was delayed as per terminal instructions and the ship did not conduct any operations in Nigeria.
On the evening of 8 August, an unidentified craft approached the ship and asked them to accompany them, impersonating the Nigerian Navy. However, the crew of the MT Heroic Idun ship could not identify the unknown craft as it was night and the craft did not have a system to automatically identify it.
The crew was later told that this was not the normal course of action of the Nigerian Navy and that the unidentified craft should not have obeyed any unauthorized orders. Even the security personnel of the AKPO terminal could not positively identify the unknown craft.
In such a situation, in view of the fear of the safety of the crew, the ship with Indian sailors was taken out of there at full speed. But the next day, on 9 August, the crew received information that the unidentified craft actually belonged to the Nigerian Navy.
Three days later, the ship, including Indian sailors, was arrested by a naval ship of Equatorial Guinea.
Some on the ground and some on the ship – the growing fear among the custody
Following the arrest, 15 crew members, including 9 Indian sailors, were taken ashore and kept in custody in Malabo. Malabo is the capital of Equatorial Guinea. On the other hand, out of the 11 crew members remaining on the ship, 6 are Indian citizens.
The crew shared a video in which they are saying that they have fully cooperated with the Equatorial Guinea authorities in all investigations. Since the arrest, Nigerian authorities have questioned seafarers detained off the coast three times. Nigerian officials have also visited his ship parked in Luba to conduct their investigation.
On 28 September, a proposal was presented to seafarers ashore in Malabo describing their alleged “crimes” and the fines to be paid.
In order to release the crew as quickly as possible, their shipowners paid the fine within a week, as confirmed by Equatorial Guinean officials.
However, the crew maintains that despite not engaging in any illegal activities, and paying fines, the crew and the ship have remained under arrest in Equatorial Guinea to this day.
The crew has released a letter to the media, in which it is written that
“We have not been abused or harassed in any way by the Equatorial Guinean authorities, and (we) appreciate it, but since all investigations have been conducted and we have also paid the fines in full, we call for our release. Want your help. The crew members on board and the crew members kept ashore are in a very serious mental condition and their physical health is also deteriorating rapidly.”