Venezuela to soon release seized oil survey ship and international crew, Texas company says

CARACAS, Venezuela – The Texas company that chartered an oil research ship seized last week by Venezuela said Tuesday that it expects the vessel and its international crew to be released soon.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. spokesman John Christiansen said that Venezuelan authorities had treated those aboard the Panamanian-flagged ship in a “respectful manner” and that the vessel “will reportedly be released in the near future.”

Venezuelan Adm. Angel Belisario Martinez told reporters late Tuesday that the ship could leave “after a few more administrative steps.” He gave no indication of how long that might take.

The Attorney General’s Office said the ship’s Ukrainian captain had been charged with violating Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone. Martinez did not say if the captain would be allowed to leave with the rest of the crew.

The ship and its 36-man crew have been anchored since Sunday off Margarita Island in the Caribbean. The crew includes five Americans and workers from Russia, Indonesia, Brazil and other countries.

It was intercepted by Venezuela’s navy while operating in disputed waters off the coast of Guyana.

Diplomats of the two countries, each of which claims the ship was in its territorial waters when seized, are to meet Thursday in Trinidad and Tobago to discuss the situation.

In a separate incident, a diplomat said Tuesday that a fishing boat from Trinidad and Tobago was detained by Venezuelan authorities for allegedly fishing illegally in the South American country’s waters.

David Edghill, Trinidad’s ambassador to Venezuela, said the boat belonging to a local fish processing company was seized Monday.

Edghill said the boat’s crew was accused of poaching in Venezuelan waters, but the fishermen maintain they were in Trinidadian seas. The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is in the Caribbean off Venezuela’s coast.