Tunisia detains crew of ship that sank off its coast this month

A Tunisian judge was reported to have ordered the detention of seven crew members of the Xelo (IMO 7618272), whichsank off the coast of the southern city of Gabes earlier this month (see IMN, April 19th, April 20th). A judicial official said on Wednesday April 27th that  authorities were investigating whether the ship might have been sunk deliberately. “The investigative judge issued a detention decision against the ship’s crew,” said Mohamed Karay, a court for the Gabes court.

Tunisian officials said the Xelo sank while heading from Equatorial Guinea to Malta carrying up to 1,000 tonnes of oil. The Tunisian navy rescued all seven crew members.

However, officials later said that a specialized diving team which was sent to counter a potential environmental disaster found that the ship cargo did not after all have 1,000 tonnes of fuel on board, but was empty.

Karay had previously said an investigation was being conducted to determine if the ship sank under “normal circumstances”.

The crew of the ship were four Turks, two Azerbaijanis and one from Georgia.

Karay said that the crew had claimed that the ship’s route documentation had been lost. He added that there had been inconsistencies in the information they provided.

The Xelo is called the Liman on Marine Traffic, and the Melo on Equasis, and is flagged with Cameroon on Equasis and with Equatorial Guinea on Marine Traffic. It was built in 1977 and until the middle of last year had been Russia-flagged.

According to Equasis, the 1977-built, Cameroon-flagged, 721 gt Melo (renamed from the Liman on July 1st 2021 and flag moved from Russia to Cameroon) is owned and managed by Star Energy Inc of Istanbul, Turkey.