As the shipping industry gathered for London International Shipping Week, seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea called for more attention to the plight of seafarers jailed under dubious circumstances.
The call for action came as a Ukrainian Captain was released from a Spanish jail after serving four years. Still proclaiming his innocence, Captain Sergey Maslenikov was released on the grounds of ill health and flew home on 5th September, assisted by seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea.
Captain Maslenikov was jailed by a Spanish court in 2009 as it was alleged his vessel was transporting illegal drugs but he had always proclaimed his innocence, saying he was set up. During his incarceration Captain Maslenikov was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent surgery.
Seafarers’ charity, Apostleship of the Sea, organised a petition at its 2012 World Congress to call for an urgent review of the case and Captain Maslenkov’s release on humanitarian grounds. This petition was presented to the court and in July, the court finally approved his parole, which was delayed because he had to undergo a further throat cancer operation.
Captain Maslenkov has had a long career at sea. In 2003, he left the port of Ilyichevsk, Ukraine, as Master of the salvage tug Zudar Sexto and in October 2003 his vessel was directed by the Capo Verde authorities to assist a distressed vessel.
Soon after, the Captain and all the crew were arrested for alleged drug trafficking and they spent eight months in a local prison before being extradited to Spain. In 2005 all the crew except the Captain left Spain, with the Master deciding to remain to prove their innocence. In 2009 a new investigation was opened with the court finding the crew and Captain Maslennikov guilty, sentencing him to nine years’ imprisonment and a fine of €69 million. The Captain appealed to the Supreme Court but his appeal was rejected and in 2004, while in prison, Captain Maslenkov was found to have well-developed throat cancer for which he underwent surgery.
On his release, Captain Maslenkov expressed his great gratitude to the Apostleship of the Sea and all who had sympathised with him and contributed to his release.
The Apostleship of the Sea works in nearly 300 ports around the world, providing practical care for seafarers including prison visiting and advocacy.