Dodgy Fishing Vessels Stories (a perfect example) / by Francisco Blaha

It never ceases to amaze me the utter “dodgines” of some vessel operators… and it also saddens me to think how many of those are around and we don’t about them… here a sad example dug out by my colleagues at SIF (Stop Illegal Fishing) that operates in Southern Africa.

An Omani flagged tuna long-liner with the name NAHAM-4, with the call sign A4DK6, was detained in Cape Town in March 2013. The vessel's agent had been granted a permit to allow the vessel to undergo repairs and discharge fish in Cape Town. Once in port the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) made a port inspection that revealed inconsistencies between the amount of fish held on-board and the supporting documentation.

This led to an investigation into the vessel by South African authorities that was supported by research from Triton Naval Architects. This research revealed that between 2010 and 2013 four different vessels had been operating with the name NAHAM-4 and that the vessel held in Cape Town was significantly larger than the NAHAM-4 that was authorised to fish in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Convention area.

As a result of the South African investigation, the Omani registered vessel owner Al-Naham and its representatives, Wu Hai Tao and Wu Hai Ping (unsurprisingly Taiwanese citizens), were charged and convicted on seven accounts relating to contraventions of the Marine Living Resources Act and IOTC's Conservation and Management Measures.

The fish that was on-board was forfeited to South Africa and auctioned, and it is anticipated that the vessel will also be auctioned in the near future. According to the Muscat Daily, the owners of the NAHAM-4, Al-Naham, have abandoned the vessel, leaving the South Africa agent Trade Ocean with debts amounting to USD 100,000. The agent is reportedly now taking legal action in Taiwan against the owners of Al-Naham who are Taiwanese citizens to recover their financial losses.

In parallel to the South African investigations, the regional FISH-i Africa Task Force, with the support of Stop Illegal Fishing, FACT and the Secretariat of the IOTC, were also investigating the NAHAM-4 during their routine crosschecking of vessels operating in the Western Indian Ocean. Comparisons of photographs of vessels bearing the name NAHAM-4, including photographs taken in late 2013 in Cape Town, showed significant differences in the structure of the vessels and inconsistencies between the call signs painted on the vessels.

In one example the name NAHAM-4 was marked on a vessel alongside the call sign A4DK5, this call sign is officially recorded with IOTC as the call sign for the fishing vessel NAHAM-3. This photographic analysis also supported the South African conclusion that the vessel arrested in Cape Town is not the vessel that is recorded in the IOTC authorised vessel list by Oman. However the NAHAM-3 was been hijacked in Somalia

Further analysis by FISH-i Africa disclosed that the previous name of the vessel held in Cape Town was DER HORNG 569, a fishing vessel owned by Der Wei Fishery Co. Ltd. of Taiwan. DER HORNG 569 was flagged to Belize and recent communication with the authorities in Belize revealed that the DER HORNG 569 and a sister vessel the DER WEI 686 had been reported as stolen (!?) by the owner Der Wei Fishery Co. Ltd. in early 2009. Following this, the DER HORNG 569 was de-flagged by Belize and since that time the flag State of this vessel has been unknown.  

FISH-i Africa has not been able to find any official records or documentation tracing the DER HORNG 569 since the vessel was removed from the Belize register, including no record of the re-naming of the DER HORNG 569 to the NAHAM-4. As the name NAHAM-4 is already in use by another vessel, it may suggest that the Taiwanese owned and Omani registered company Al-Naham re-named the vessel after it was reported stolen by the previous owners.

During the FISH-i Africa investigation it emerged that Al-Naham, the company owning the arrested NAHAM-4, use the same postal address as the Oman based company Seas Tawariq Co. LLC in the IOTC list of authorised vessels. Tawariq Co. LLC was the owner of the infamous IUU fishing vessel Tawariq 1 arrested and later confiscated by the United Republic of Tanzania in 2009. 

The case of NAHAM-4 is still ongoing but it already exemplifies the use of false identities to operate illegally. It demonstrates the complexity of illegal fishing and the daring and unethical behaviour that lies behind this crime. This case also shows that systematic information sharing and crosschecking, such as that taking place in the FISH-i Africa Task Force is greatly needed.

Stop Illegal Fishing urges the flag State of Oman to face the challenge of the NAHAM-4 and to act as a responsible and transparent flag State.

Original source and more here