Venezuela drops arms trafficking charges against US ship

September 10th, 2012 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 10 (IANS) Venezuelan authorities have dropped charges of arms trafficking against the crew of a US-flagged cargo ship, CNN reported.

The Ocean Atlas ship with its captain and 14 crew members was held for more than a week.

A US State Department official confirmed the charges were dropped, but Venezuela’s ministry of communications told CNN they had no information regarding the case.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the detention had to do with customs paperwork for rifles that were on board for the crew’s protection.

The crew member said the ship’s security team keeps the rifles in a locker on board.

The ship docked at the port of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, Aug 29, and the captain declared the weapons on arrival, and was cleared to have them.

But Venezuelan authorities denied there was permission for the weapons and confiscated them.

The crew was told the ship was under investigation for arms trafficking.

The ship’s captain, Jeffrey Raider, was taken into custody and also made a court appearance. He was held on land while the other crew members were told to stay on the ship.

A crew member told CNN said there was never any danger or threat of physical harm.

Though the Venezuelan authorities who boarded the ship were armed, he said, “at all times the guns were pointed at the ground”.

The Ocean Atlas, built in 2000, is a 393-foot long, heavy-lift cargo ship, according to its operator, Intermarine.

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