Six sailors working for a shipwreck salvage company, based in Tarpon Springs, have been imprisoned for nearly a month in Honduras. The Americans have been accused of trying to smuggle guns into the country. They have been detained after authorities found guns on their vessel.
The local police in Honduras intercepted the Aqua Quest upon its arriving in the country on May 5. The crew had been sent to recover valuable mahogany stocks from a river bottom. They were supposed to work together with an Indian tribe (Miskito Indians) and the citizens of Ahuas. Once the vessel pulled into port, it was boarded by the authorities and the crew was arrested.
According to Aqua Quest International, the six sailors had gun on board to protect themselves from pirates, not to resale it on the black market. They had notified the maritime authorities in Honduras before entering their country waters. Still, they have been blamed for illegal possession of weapons. The chief operating officer of Aqua Quest International, Stephen Mayne, said:
"We were solicited to go down there and do business. It's not like we just showed up there unannounced.
"We spent three years lining this up. We had government officials waiting at the dock for us. But some local officials saw a chance to pounce on us and take advantage of us."
According to the Honduran authorities, the Americans had on their boat two handguns, one semiautomatic riffle (AK-47) and two shotguns. They had no permission to enter the country with those guns on board.
Robert Mayne, the captain of the detained crew, said:
"Everyone tells us this would never happen in any other port in Honduras. We have the right to do it (carry arms) for protection on the high seas."
The case is being monitored by the US State department embassy. Aqua Quest International has been working through official channels to get the crew released, but since this gave no result so far, they are making a public appeal.