Bulker crew accused of throwing stowaways overboard

Authorities in South Africa are investigating an alleged incident in which the captain and crew of a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier apparently threw overboard two stowaways.

The incident, as it is alleged, took place March 28 on board the MV Top Grace as it was underway off the port of Durban, according to gCaptain.

In a statement, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said it was working with the South African Police Services (SAPS) to investigate the incident.

According to details two stowaways, both of Tanzania origin, were located on board without permission and forcibly thrown overboard by the captain and some crew members of the Top Grace.

Upon learning of the incident, authorities detained the vessel in Richards Bay and charges were laid against the ship’s captain and six of its crew members.

They have since appeared in court while official investigations are continuing, SAMSA said.

“It is alleged that the two stowaways had boarded the vessel, Top Grace, which was berthed at Maydon Wharf in Durban on Monday 23th March 2020 by climbing up the mooring ropes and hid in the chain locker,” SAMSA said in a statement. “When they were discovered hiding on the ship, after it had set sail, they alleged that they were thrown overboard with a make-shift raft, life jackets and some bottles of water. The Tanzanians claimed they spent two days at sea before washing out at Zinkwazi beach on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.”

The MV Top Grace is currently berthed at the Richards Bay as the investigation continues.

The seven crew charged included the ship’s Master, Chief Officer, Third Officer, Chief Engineer, First Engineer, Second Engineer and Bosun, who were taken into police custody and charged with attempted murder before being released on bail. The crew were allowed to return to the vessel until their next court appearance, according to gCaptain.

“SAMSA has also conducted its own investigation and has shared such with the SAPS to assist with their ongoing investigation. SAMSA would like to warn vessels sailing through its territorial waters that any vessels found to have transgressed South Africa’s national laws will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” SAMSA said.

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