For the second month straight ten Ukrainian seafarers had been kept in custody in Conakry, Guinea in Western Africa. The authorities arrested the German container ship AS Castor and its crew when 81 kg of cocaine had been allegedly found onboard.
After more than 30 days of investigation no evidence against crew or the ship owner (German company Alpha Shipmanagement) has been produced. At the same time the Ship’s Master and Chief Engineer are kept in prison, other crew members are regularly questioned by police. Except of Ukrainians the crew of AS Castor includes six Filipino and one Polish.
Meanwhile in Ukraine seafarers’ wives with the support of local organizations called the press-meeting. Family members are assured that this incident is a vivid example of State-initiated piracy, which is allegedly common in Western Africa. They believe that authorities planted the drug to extort a bribe from the ship operator in exchange for termination of case and vessel release. The ship owner told the Professional Seafarers that the company is not not in a position to comment on this statement.
Drugs had been reportedly found in one of the containers loaded with sugar. Seafarers claim that during transition period these containers had been kept door to door and surrounded thickly by other containers, thus making the task of hiding drugs inside rather complicated. Nonetheless it’s unclear if the containers were sealed when the inspection in Guinea took place. Even the ship owner has no information on this matter. Guinean authorities do not reveal any information concerning investigation.
Relatives are sure that unsustainable moral coercion is placed on seafarers. The rainy season began in Guinea, reportedly bringing diseases on board. One seafarer has had symptoms of malaria, other four suffer from fever heat. Ship owner representative Cor Radings told us that seafarers on board of the AS Castor are “in a relatively good physical and mental condition, taking into account that they are kept there against their will”. Alpha Shipmanagement cannot confirm or deny the information about malaria. Radings admitted that some seafarers had “mild fever” but now the situation is “stable”.
It’s not clear if there are enough medicines onboard of AS Castor. Relatives stated that pharmaceuticals are almost used up. The ship owner ensured us that all of the crew members have recently been checked by a doctor. In the nearest future a shipment of medicines is expected. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is a regular shipment or there really is the shortage of medicines onboard.
Alpha Shipmanagement informed us that taking into account the absence of evidences against the crew, the company repeatedly asked the Court in Conakry to set a bail amount for two seafarers in custody and allow them await the conclusions of the investigations on board of AS Castor. No response or information had since been received back from the authorities despite all the requests. Alpha Shipmanagement claims that they had to take advice from professional advisors and legal experts. The ship owner prefers not to reveal the names and expertise of these specialists.
— Kate Kochetkova