The Greek-flagged tanker "Maria L" and all its crew were being held by authorities in Puerto Jose, Venezuela on Thursday after 353 packages containing 417.6 kilos of drugs were found attached to the bottom of its hull by divers. The divers' inspection was demanded by the port's authorities and conducted with the permission of the ship owner. The ship has a crew of 20, of which 12 are Greeks.

The shipping firm involved has informed authorities in Greece about the discovery of the drugs, while noting that attaching something to a ship's hull in the specific position requires a diver with specialised skills.

The inspection was carried out after the ship had loaded its cargo, an oil refinery by-product being transported to Terneuzen in Holland and then Immingham in the United Kingdom.

The Greek Maritime Affairs ministry has asked for the assistance of the foreign ministry in order to provide the Greek seamen on board the vessel with any assistance they need via Greek consular authorities in Venezuela.