According to sources aboard the vessel, the M/V Ocean Atlas has been cleared of all charges and is awaiting release from Venezuela.
The vessel first ran into trouble on Wednesday August 29 when she was boarded by local police, and members of Venezuela’s drug enforcement agency claiming they had received a tip that the vessel was smuggling drugs. A search failed to turn up any drugs, however, authorities found weapons used to protect the vessel from pirates. The weapons had previously been declared to the port authorities but the did not stop government officials from detaining the ship and arresting the Captain.
Since early morning Thursday when the news first broke on gCaptain’s forum, the vessel has received a high level of support from within the maritime industry but there has been very little reported action taken by US authorities. Leading the effort to free the vessel were the SIU and AMO unions that represent the vessel’s crew as well as The Apostleship Of The Sea and the Council Of American Master Mariners.
It has been confirmed that State Department officials did visit the ship, but very little additional information is known about actions taken by the American government.
The news of the vessel’s pending release arrived shortly after the Captain, Jeffrey Michael Raider of Texas, was temporarily returned to the vessel to move her from dock to a nearby anchorage. It was also noted that Raider was in good spirits and was treated well throughout the inquiry.
The vessel is expected to sailing late tonight or tomorrow.