Apparently worried that their colleagues are still being held by Nigerian security agencies, the Seafarers Union of Russia has called on labour and maritime unions in Nigeria to help intervene in the quest to ensure the release of the 15 sailors who were crew of Myre Seadiver.
The ill-fated ship was detained and along with the sailors on October 23, 2012 after port and security agents found several guns and about 8,500 rounds of ammunition aboard the ship.
The Russians who had been in custody of the Nigerian Navy since their arrest, were recently handed over to the Nigeria Police for prosecution, a development which shocked the Russian government, which threatened a diplomatic face-off with Nigeria.
But sensing that the country’s foreign office is not making any headway, Chairman of Baltic Regional Organization of the Seafarers Union of Russia, Mr.Alexandr Bodnia have reached out to the Nigerian maritime and seafaring unions to assist.
In a statement signed the Chairman, Baltic Regional Organization of the Seafarers Union of Russia, and signed by its chairman; Mr.Alexandr Bodnia, the group stated that the 15 Russian crew members were not to engaged in arm smuggling and argued that the embattled seafarers have no connection with the arms.
Bodnia, in the letter that was sighted by Shipping Position Daily last week lamented that all efforts by the ship owner, the ministry of foreign affairs of Russia and the Russia embassy in Nigeria had yielded no result.
"We ask for you to help the Russian seafarers and call to free our brothers as soon as possible, seafarers should work at sea, but not be kept in prison like criminals and free Myre Seadivers crew! Let them return home and meet their relatives”, the statement reads.
The letter specifically charged the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, the Nigeria Ports Authority branch of the Senior Staff Association, the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport and Senior Staff Association and the representative of International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in Nigeria to help the Myre Seadiver crew from detention.
The Russian sailors’ body explained that: "The vessel is used by Moran security group, a private security company to escort and defend ships in such regions where pirates attack vessels and take seafarers as hostages".
The union also defended its members and the deadly cargo that was found on board, saying, “actually the cargoes on board including firearms and ammunition were duly declared through the local ship agent before the Myre Seadiver entering the port in Lagos".
“As for the crew, they have been held in local prison for several months. The seafarers have no connections with their relatives. It is not clear when they will be released .All efforts by the ship owners, Ministry of foreign affairs of Russia; the Russian Embassy had no results”.
“We ask you to help the Russian seafarers and call to free our brothers as soon as possible! Seafarers should work at sea but not be kept in prison like criminals.
Free Myre seadivers’ crew! Let them return home and meet their relatives!”.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Russian Foreign Ministry had also recently argued that the sailors were facing a court case initiated "under false pretexts" and that Nigeria broke a promise given to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that the men would return to Russia before the New Year.
In a statement which was obtained exclusively by Shipping Position Daily earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry had lamented that: "Despite the energetic efforts made by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian embassy in Nigeria to release the Myre Seadiver and its crew of 15 who were detained in the Lagos port on October 19, 2012, and also despite the promises to allow our compatriots to return to Russia before the New year holidays made to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru in a phone conversation on December 21, the vessel and crew continue to be held by the Nigerian authorities," the report which was said.
The position of the Russian government was also toed by Moran Security Group, which had also called the accusations "groundless".