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Colombian authorities investigate ship captain’s death

Some reports say crew killed Spirit of Hamburg mariner, while others point to an intruder

No arrests have been reported in connection with the death of the captain of a container ship while it was in port in Colombia.

Rumors have swirled since Capt. Myo Tun Zaw was found dead on the deck of the Spirit of Hamburg on Thursday. Some reports say members of his own crew murdered him. Others say he was killed by an intruder on board the vessel while it was berthed at the Port of Cartagena.

The Spirit of Hamburg is managed by Zeaborn Ship Management, and the company’s CEO, COO and CFO posted a statement Monday in which they said the captain’s “officers and crew on board and all of us on shore share [his family’s] grief and are asking ourselves what happened and why.”

The statement from Zeaborn Chief Executive Officer Rob Grool, Chief Operating Officer Michael Brandhoff and Chief Financial Officer Erik Kruse said, “There has been a lot of speculation on social media and in the regular press on what exactly happened, but as long as the authorities have not finished their investigation and announced official results, we believe it is inappropriate to draw any conclusions or to make any statements on their findings.

“What we want to confirm is that the ship is registered in the Isle of Man Register and dismiss reports of German flag and jurisdiction,” the statement said. “The crew of our vessel originate from Myanmar, Ethiopia and Russia and, contrary to some media reports, not from the Philippines. They are all professional seafarers whom we are supporting to the best of our ability and who have been offered psychological help.”

An earlier statement released by Zeaborn over the weekend said the captain, who was from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, “suffered fatal injuries following what is believed to be a violent incident with an intruder.”

One media report said the captain was killed in a fight with his crew and that the Spirit of Hamburg was a German-flagged ship. A Colombian radio station said there was a conflict with 12 Filipino crew members and the “51-year-old Burmese captain.”

Zeaborn, a third-party ship manager based in Hamburg, Germany, and Singapore, said it was cooperating with Colombian authorities, who have allowed the vessel to move from berth to inner anchorage during their investigation.

In a press release Monday, the General Directorate of Maritime Colombia only said there were 21 crew members on board the Spirit of Hamburg and that the captain was found dead on the main deck at about 5 p.m. Thursday.

The Spirit of Hamburg has a capacity of 3,630 twenty-foot equivalent units and is part of the Hamburg Sud network. The vessel reportedly had departed the Port of Charleston in South Carolina on April 10.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.