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Russia presses for release of its trawler and its crew in Senegal

January 16, 2014, 1:30 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Certain progress has been made in terms of medical attention, help and supply of basic necessities, including drinking water, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights said
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© EPA/NIC BOTHMA

MOSCOW, January 15, 23:10 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia has noted progress in ensuring the rights of its trawler Oleg Naydenov’s crew detained in Senegal in early January but will keep pressing for their release, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said.

“Certain progress has been made in terms of medical attention, help and supply of basic necessities, including drinking water, Dolgov said. We think that our position of principle communicated to the Senegalese authorities produced an effect and the Senegalese realised the importance of complying with the relevant rules of international law and human rights.”

“But we have not yet achieved a crucial result, which is release of the ship and its crew, primarily the crew because they must not be a hostage of possible commercial disputes between the ship owner and the Senegalese authorities,” the official said.

“At any rate, the well-being and the interests of the Russian citizens is our absolute priority,” Dolgov noted.

The trawler Oleg Naydenov was detained off Guinea Bissau on January 4 for suspected illegal fishing, Lieutenant-Colonel Adama Diop, from the public relations office at the Senegalese Army, said.

“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 repeat 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,” Federal Fisheries Agency spokesperson Alexander Savelyev said.

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

There were 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.

“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,” he said.

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

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.

The crew is staying aboard the ship under the control of the Senegalese military and law enforcers. The sailors’ documents were seized upon detention.

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