16 Indian sailors detained in Equatorial Guinea since 3 months
As many as 16 Indian mariners of oil vessel MT Heroic Idun have been detained in Equatorial Guinea, a Central African country, since August 14. Apart from them, the Guinea Navy has also detained eight Sri Lankan sailors and one each from Poland and the Philippines. The seamen have appealed for help to be released, claiming that their detention was "unlawful."
Guinea Navy arrested vessel on request from Nigeria
The sailors have released a video saying that an Equatorial Guinean naval ship arrested their vessel bearing a Norweigan flag in international waters based on a request from Nigeria. The vessel was then escorted to Luba port in Equatorial Guinea under the threat of legal action. Following the arrest, 15 crew members are held in Malabo, while 11 members are left on the ship.
Was supposed to load crude oil in Nigeria
The vessel was to load crude oil in Nigeria's AKPO terminal on August 8. However, it was delayed, and the ship couldn't make the operation. Later in the evening, an unidentified watercraft claiming to be the Nigerian Navy approached the ship, asking the crew to follow. The crew didn't recognize the craft as it was dark and its Automatic Identification System was turned off.
Equatorial Guinea handed over the ship to Nigeria
16 Indian sailors, part of a 26 member crew of MT Heroic Idun detained by Equatorial Guinea; Crew says that the vessel is being illegally handed over to Nigeria. pic.twitter.com/EI95IyaFYi— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) November 6, 2022
Unidentified craft turned out to be Nigerian naval vessel
The crew was then told that it wasn't the Nigerian Navy's normal course of action and they shouldn't follow any unauthorized orders. The AKPO terminal security also failed to identify the craft. Apprehensive about the situation, the vessel then sailed out of there at full speed. However, the next day (August 9), they were informed that the craft indeed belonged to the Nigerian Navy.
Nine Indians held in Malabo, six on ship
Three days later, on August 12, the Equatorial Guinean Navy arrested the ship. Of the 15 crew members held in Malabo, nine are Indians, while among those left on the ship, there are six Indians. In the video, the crew said they fully cooperated with authorities of Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria, whose officials interrogated the crew members thrice and inspected the ship in Luba.
Detention continues despite fine being paid
On September 28, the detained crew members were presented with the offenses committed by them and the fine for the same. Despite the vessel owners paying the fine within a week, which was confirmed by Equatorial Guinean authorities, the crew members have not been released. They asserted that although they weren't mistreated, their mental health was in shambles, and their physical health was deteriorating.