Tunisia detains crew of sunken 'Xelo' fuel ship

Authorities are investigating whether the ship may have been deliberately sunk

The merchant ship Xelo sank in Tunisian territorial waters, in the Gulf of Gabes, on April 16. AP

Seven crew members of a commercial ship that sank off Tunisia's coast have been detained, a judicial official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Authorities are investigating whether the ship may have been deliberately sunk off the southern city of Gabes this month.

Tunisian officials initially said that the Xelo sank as it travelled from Equatorial Guinea to Malta, while carrying up to 1,000 tonnes of oil, and the Tunisian navy had rescued all seven crew members.

Officials later said a diving team sent to counter a potential environmental disaster found the ship was empty.

"The investigative judge issued a detention decision against the ship's crew," said Mohamed Karay, a spokesman for the Gabes court.

Mr Karay had previously said an investigation was being conducted to determine if the ship sank under normal circumstances or was sabotaged to obtain compensation from insurance companies. Authorities were also looking into the possibility of oil smuggling, he said.

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

They claimed the ship's route documentation had been lost, and there was a conflict in the information they provided, Mr Karay said.

Reuters could not immediately contact the crew, the ship owner or their legal representatives.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 4:59 AM
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