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Russian trawler detained off Guinea Bissau presumably for illegal fishing

January 04, 2014, 22:32 UTC+3 PARIS
The captain said several of his crewmembers had been injured during the standoff
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PARIS, January 04, 22:30 /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian trawler Oleg Naydenov was detained off Guinea Bissau for suspected illegal fishing, Lieutenant-Colonel Adama Diop, from the public relations office at the Senegalese Army, said on Saturday, January 4.

“The ship was engaged in illegal fishing in our waters not far from the border with Guinea Bissau, south of Senegal,” Agence France Presse quoted him as saying. “This is the third trawler we have detained in one week on similar suspicions.”

Senegal’s Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ali Haidar confirmed Diop’s words on the radio. “The Russian vessel was fishing without proper permits,” he said.

The minister said the trawler had headed to Dakar only after the interference by the military but had ignored marine police’s orders before that. “This trawler is a repeated offender. It has been fishing in Senegalese waters without permission many times,” he added.

The ship was stopped 46 miles off Guinea Bissau earlier in the day, after which four army officers from the Senegalese warship Ferlo boarded it and ordered the captain to follow them to their vessel. The captain refused to obey.

“After that the military attempted to take the captain to the Senegalese military ship by force, but the chief officer, acting on the captain’s instructions, sounded an alarm,” Fisheries Committee spokesperson Alexander Savelyev said.

For some time, the trawler’s crew imitated engine problems to keep the ship in place.

There are 82 persons aboard the ship - 62 Russians and 20 citizens of Guinea Bissau. The trawler was procuring fish off that African country under an inter-governmental agreement, which requires Russian sailors to take locals aboard for training and work.

The trawler belongs to the closed joint stock company Feniks registered in Murmansk, northern Russia. The company said every idle day of the ship in Dakar would cost it one million roubles. “This is an approximate amount and it may increase depending on the time and terms of demurrage,” Yuri Parshev, executive director of Feniks, the company that owns the ship, told ITAR-TASS.

He said the company had not received any official charges or explanations from the Senegalese authorities.

“The trawler has been operating in this region for a long time and took on a new Russian crew in Dakar on December 22 - 62 Russian citizens, mainly residents of the Murmansk Region. The ship entered and left the port unhindered,” Parshev said.

He noted, however, that the Senegalese authorities had repeatedly accused Russian ships of breaching fishing rules and imposed fines upon them, including the Oleg Naydenov.

Its owner, senior officials of the Federal Fisheries Committee, the Russian Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and other relevant organisations have been notified about the incident.

The Russian Embassy in Senegal said it had not received any information about the detention of the trawler.

“We have received no official information to this effect so far. The local authorities have not contacted us and no demands have been put forth,” an Embassy official said.

The trawler’s Captain Vadim Manorov has sent a written protest to be delivered to all interested agencies, in which he stated the circumstances of the incident and his disagreement with the Senegalese military’s actions.

The captain said several of his crewmembers had been injured during the standoff.

The military used physical force against Russian sailors to put them into submission. “As a result, several persons were injured. For example, barmaid Ivashkevich’s arm may be broken,” the ship’s Captain Vadim Manorov said.

The ship, licensed to procure seafood in Guinea Bissau’s economic zone and moving without the trawl in an area open for fishing, was stopped by a military ship, named Ferlo, flying the flag of Senegal, the captain said.

“Four military officers armed with automatic weapons embarked the ship from a high-speed board lowered from the warship. In reply to my demands that they leave the ship and my statements that their actions were unlawful, I was told to follow them to Dakar. After my refusal, the military physically tried to force me, the captain, into their boat, but they were interrupted by the crew,” Manorov said.

When the military attempted to take the captain into their boat, the trawler’s first officer sounded an alarm. To stop the crew, one of the military men pointed an automatic gun at the first officer’s head and racked its slide. The attempt to take the captain away was stopped but the freedom of his movement was restricted to the right-hand section of the bridge where he was kept at gunpoint, Manorov said.

When a second Senegalese ship arrived, ten men wearing camouflage and armed with automatic guns boarded the trawler. “I was thrown onto the deck, handcuffed, led to the starboard storm ladder and ordered to sit down on the deck. The crew was led at gunpoint to the upper deck and kept there for a long time. Later we got under way and headed to Dakar. The military strictly forbade everyone to use the ship’s means of communication,” the captain said.

He also said that the Senegalese military had searched the ship, led 20 sailors from Guinea Bissau to the passageway at gunpoint and searched the cabins of two inspectors from Guinea Bissau. The military gave a very rough treatment to the citizens of Guinea Bissau, he added.

The Oleg Naydenov is a large factory trawler, 120 metres long. It was built in Germany in 1989 and received its current name in 2005 in honour of Murmansk’s first mayor. Prior to that, its name was Leonid Galchenko.

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