Eight Sri Lankan seafarers detained on vessel in Nigeria | Sunday Observer

Eight Sri Lankan seafarers detained on vessel in Nigeria

4 December, 2022

The eight Sri Lankan seafarers taken in for questioning by the Nigerian authorities for unexplained reasons are being detained on the vessel on which they were employed until they are produced at a local court, a senior maritime trade unionist said yesterday.

The group is expected to be produced in a Nigerian court around mid January next year and until then they will be confined to the cargo carrier ‘Heroic Indun’, President of the National Union of Seafarers Sri Lanka (NUSS), Palitha Atukorale told the Sunday Observer.

He said the detained seafarers were being treated properly, reportedly in good health and even provided with facilities to communicate with their families in Sri Lanka following a major outcry from trade unionists worldwide.

The eight Sri Lankans are part of a larger crew that includes 16 Indians, one Philippine national and a Polish national, Atukorale said.

He said the NUSS along with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) had earlier sought the assistance of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization to seek the release of the Sri Lankans.

The crew and the Marshal Islands flagged Norwegian-owned cargo vessel were taken into custody on August 12, in international waters on the West Coast of Central Africa, Atukorale said.

They were initially detained by the neighbouring Equatorial Guinea Navy before being handed over to the Nigerian authorities.

Both countries are known to share the same maritime borders.

The ship owner was told that the crew had violated maritime laws and, therefore, they would be detained along with the vessel until investigations are completed, Atukorale said.

He said the ship owner had also been fined heavily on unexplained charges but despite all that the crew and the vessel continue to be detained.

The NUSS has also met some family members of the detained seafarers.

The group would have been released earlier if not for some bureaucratic bungling and delays by the authorities in Colombo, Atukorale added.