Seven crew charged with abandoning stowaways on raft

Seven crewmembers of bulker Top Grace (IMO 9763875) are reported to have been charged with attempted murder after allegedly abandoning two stowaways at sea in a raft, according to the South African media.

South African prosecutors have claimed that two Tanzanian stowaways had boarded the Top Grace at the port of Durban The vessel got under way for Richards Bay, about 90 nm to the northeast. When the crew discovered the unauthorized personnel, they allegedly put them over the side in a raft with bottled water and lifejackets, and then resumed their voyage. The stowaways managed to make it ashore at Zinkwazi (Nkwazi), in shark-infested waters, and they told authorities that they had been adrift for four days.

The Top Grace was intercepted by South African police when she docked in Richards Bay on April 3rd. Seven crewmembers, including the captain, were charged with attempted murder in Durban last Wednesday April 8th. Local media reported that the start of the trial was postponed for several days while awaiting Covid-19 test results for the accused. The crewmembers had their travel documents seized and were released on bail of ZAR20,000 (just over US$1,000), but are confined to their vessel. The next magistrate’s appearance is scheduled for today, April 17th.

2016-built, Panama-flagged, 34,593 gt Top Grace is owned by Top Grace Navigation SA care of manager Fairweather Steamship Co Ltd of Hong Kong. It is entered with West of England Club (Claims Team Hong Kong) on behalf of Top Grace Navigation SA.