THE arrest of a master and chief officer following a collision off the Dutch coast has demonstrated a trend in premature seafarer accusations, according to Nautilus International.

The international maritime union referred to an accident involving bulk carrier Julietta D and oil tanker Pechora Star on 31 January this year.

The Malta-flagged ships reportedly collided in an anchorage area off the port city of Ijmuiden when Julietta D ran adrift during a powerful storm.

Local news reports suggest the 18 crewmembers onboard, including the master and mate, were evacuated by helicopters after the ship began listing.

A report from Al Jazeera said the storm had caused winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour in the North Sea. Three helicopters were involved in the challenging rescue operation.

Nautilus International said the Dutch National Police Unit had announced the arrests of the captain and chief mate of the Julietta D on 1 February. They were under investigation for allegedly causing damage at sea.

The union understands they have since been released, but according to Dutch news reports, police are still investigating the incident to determine whether any criminal offences were committed.

“Such arrests are in line with the trend that seafarers are criminalised even before all the facts are known,” Nautilus deputy general secretary Marcel van den Broek said.

“It was an empty ship in a full storm. That swings in all directions. If the anchor then breaks loose, it is hardly possible to get the ship under control. If you don’t get the engine started quickly, the ship is out of control.

“If the ship also takes on water and the engine room fills up, you can’t do much more. You also cannot send anyone into the engine room to start the engine, and you can’t do much without an engine.

“I understand why the captain had to evacuate.”

Mr van den Broek said all seafarers deserve fair treatment in every aspect of their work, including in accidents.

“Seafarers should not be unfairly accused or criminalised for accidents at sea.

“This conviction underlies our international Fair Treatment campaign, which covers both working conditions and legal protection.”

The Pechora Star was also damaged in the incident but was able to continue its voyage.