International maritime transport organizations issued a global alert for the retention of commercial ships and prolonged arrest of crews in different ports of Mexico after national authorities discovered the trafficking of illegal drugs.
The International Group of P&I Clubs, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and InterManager, expressed their concern before their union members about the series of ship detentions and the arrest of crew members in Mexico, such as the case of the ship UBC SAVANNAH, flying the Cyprus flag, detained in Altamira, according to MarineTraffic.
According to the maritime alert, the prolonged and continuous detention of the ship in custody calls the attention of the members of these organizations without formal charges being filed against it, even though the discovery of narcotics onboard has been made.
Since July 2019, international industry organizations have registered a series of cases in which ships have been detained upon arrival at Mexican ports, in particular Altamira and Ensenada, from ports generally from Ecuador, Colombia or Panama, and in the which illegal narcotics have been found onboard.
In July 2019, the Secretary of the Navy (Semar) secured 8 sacks with 227 packages with an approximate weight of 225 kilograms of alleged cocaine, which were found inside a warehouse of the ship “UBC SAVANNAH”, from Colombia, which docked in the port of Altamira. This led to the arrest of the ship’s captain and nearly 20 Filipino crew members who were jailed and deported almost three months later.
What international organizations state is that, in some cases, such detentions and arrests of the crew have remained even when the illegal narcotics have been discovered on board by the same crew and reported in advance and as soon as possible to the local authorities in the port of arrival in Mexico.
“While international industry organizations fully understand the harm caused to Mexico by illicit drug trafficking and the need to suppress and deter this criminal activity, including by prosecuting offenders using the full force of criminal law, the risk of unjustified detentions of the ship and arrests of the crew, the potentially prolonged stays in prison should not be ignored ”, sentences the alert.
In this sense, the application of the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure in Mexico draws the attention of members of the industry, where any accused of drug-related crimes must remain in preventive detention prior to trial, even if they are innocent. Before the trial and during the trial, detention in Mexico can be prolonged, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic .
“International industry organizations have already expressed serious concern to the Mexican government regarding the apparent indiscriminate application of the Code and the disproportionate approach taken by prosecutors in cases of detentions of ships and crews. The international organizations of the industry are committed to the Mexican authorities to seek the release of both the UBC SAVANNAH vessel and the vessels currently detained, ”according to the agencies in the alert.
The foregoing, since there have also been cases of detentions of ships and crew members in other ports where the transport of illicit substances has been discovered, as is the case of Manzanillo and Ensenada, where there are currently also detained ships.
When there is any doubt about the specific preventive measures that ships can take, both before loading, especially if loaded from a port in South America, and before arrival in Mexico, then the Club (agencies ), as detailed in the alert, which is not unique since other members of the Club have also issued alerts and similar circulars since May 12, 2020.