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Dec 2, 2016

Belize-flagged ship hauled in for fishing violations in Somalia

A shipping vessel tonight remains in the custody of the government of the African country of Somalia for illegal fishing activities. But what does the detention have to do with Belize? Well, the Geko 1 was detained while flying the Belize flag which means that it is registered in Belize and the incident can potentially give the local registry a black eye. The vessel which is owned by a Greek company was recently seized with a cargo of approximately thirty tons of high value fish harvested in Somali waters. Aside from breaking international fishing laws, the vessel is also suspected of using a fraudulent Somali license. The state-run registry, IMMARBE, is attempting to clear up the mess with authorities in the African continent. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Illegal fishing, aside from piracy, remains a primary concern for maritime law enforcement globally.  In Belizean waters, there have been numerous reports of Guatemalan fishermen unlawfully harvesting our marine resources.  Oddly enough, the shoe is on the other foot, except that it involves a Greek-owned vessel and a crew of men who have never set foot on Belizean soil or sailed our high seas.  The Greko 1, a trawler operating illegally within Somali waters, flies the Belizean standard, after receiving permission from the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize two years ago.  Tonight, it is grounded in Mombasa, the chief seaport of Kenya.

 

Valerie Lanza, Director, High Seas Fisheries

Valerie Lanza

“It was recently detained by Somali government because it was suspected of engaging in illegal activities within Somali jurisdiction.  So the Somali government contacted us and we have been in communication with them, as well as the government of Mombasa in regards to the allegations that were made of illegal fishing.  Some of the allegations that were made, for us, were questionable considering the economic situation in Somalia.  But we have worked with the owners, we have worked with the Mombasa government, with the Somali government and at present we have come to a resolution of the allegations.”

 

So how does a watercraft owned by a Greek company, registered with IMMARBE and permitted to fly the Belizean flag, end up in custody off the coast of Africa?

 

Valerie Lanza

“The vessel has been registered with us since 2014.  It has been operating in Somali waters under license from the Somali government for that time and what we believed happened was that in 2014, the Somalis revised their fisheries law and certain legislations were changed in regards to what type of foreign-owned vessel can operate in their jurisdiction.  The Greko 1 unfortunately, was one of those vessels that were, their fishing gears were prohibited from operating within that area and it came under investigation by Somali government.  The Somali government basically told us that the licenses that they had given back in 2014 to this vessel was fraudulent.  So there was a lot of back and forth communication with the Somali government regarding these so-called fraudulent permits that were given by their administration.”

 

During that time however, Greko 1 fled from Mogadishu and subsequent bulletins were issued to countries within the region, including Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique.  Those countries all closed their ports to the fugitive vessel.

 

Valerie Lanza

“The owners basically are in communication with Somali government right now to resolve the case.  They were issued with a sanction.  The sanction was reduced because the owners agreed to, made an agreement with them to pay a portion of that sanction after they discharge whatever cargo was onboard their vessel in Mombasa.  From our understanding, the payment has been made to Somali.  The Somali government has yet to contact us to confirm that that payment has been received.  But the vessel is currently located in Mombasa where it has been prohibited from sailing by Belize, its license has been suspended until we receive confirmation from Somalia that the case has been closed.”

Prior to the trawler taking flight, an inspection of its cargo space revealed that the hold was filled to capacity with approximately thirty tons of high value frozen fish, arguably worth more than the vessel itself.  Will the Government of Belize, IMMARBE’s new owner face any sanctions in light of Greko 1’s illegal exploits?

 

Valerie Lanza

“We have our legislation that governs this type of activities and we took actions when we heard about the allegations.  Like I said, we contacted the Somali government.  The actions that we took was prohibiting the vessel from sailing and restricting or suspending its license.  So at this time the vessel doesn’t have a license to operate and it’s currently located in Mombasa where it remains until we give the permission that it could continue its operation.”

Greko 1 had been facing fines of up to six hundred thousand U.S. dollars for violations of Somali Fisheries Law.  This is the first case that has made it unto the media blotter since government compulsorily acquired IMMARBE in 2013.

 

Isani Cayetano Reporting for News Five

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1 Response for “Belize-flagged ship hauled in for fishing violations in Somalia”

  1. Mike G. says:

    If we can sell passports why not boat licenses? Typical GOB.

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