The West of England P&I Club has issued a warning to tanker operators, highlighting that the general security situation at Venezuelan anchorages and ports is declining and robbery and bribery of crew members is rife. This comes at a time when the Venezuelan oil is in decline.
Examples of the problems encountered at these locations include a vessel at anchor waiting to load that was boarded by four armed personnel who appeared to be wearing “National Guard” uniforms.
All of the crew were ordered to assemble in the messroom with their money and valuables, which were subsequently stolen.
In another instance, two government personnel boarded a vessel and “found” a small plastic bag containing white powder during an inspection.
The powder was subsequently tested in front of the Master and revealed to be cocaine. The inspectors then attempted to reach a cash settlement with the Master to resolve the problem. This was resisted, and the inspectors eventually left the vessel with the bag allegedly containing the substance. This type of incident is similar to recent attempts at bribery in Ukraine.
Owners should be aware of the legal consequences when it comes to making insurance claims in connection to such events.
The West of England P&I Club recommend that when visiting berths in Venezuela, vessels should be alert to the possibility of improper conduct on the part of alleged government officials.
In all instances where uniformed or other official personnel board a vessel, their identification documents should be closely checked, and their details carefully recorded. When inspections are undertaken by government personnel, each inspector should be accompanied by an officer so that their actions whilst onboard can be closely observed.
Due to the risk of robbery at these anchorages, crew members should remain vigilant. Reports highlight that the anchor chain and the poop deck are favoured means of boarding for robbers. The following points should be considered and implemented where practicable: