By Peter Olorunnisomo – The government of Tanzania has revoked licences of two marine vessels flying Tanzanian flag after they were seized for shipping illicit drugs and explosives contrary to national and international laws. This is arguably the most decisive action considered by the country.
This recent action was announced by the vice president of Tanzania, Samia Suhumu Hassan during a press conference at State House in Dar es Salaam.
The two ships in question were seized towards the end of last year and early this year in the Dominican Republic and Greece respectively.
Vice President Samia Hassan named the ships as Kaluba, which was intercepted by the US coastguards on the 26th December 2017 and handed over in a seizure to the Dominican Republic with 1,600 kilogrammes of cocaine; and Andromeda, which was seized in Greece on January 6 with materials used to make explosives.
‘’We revoked the licenses and ordered the owner of the ships to lower the Tanzanian flag. We will also take action against those who registered the ships,’‘ Hassan said.
The vice president said President Magufuli has directed the authorities to take appropriate legal measures against those who were involved in registering the ships with the Zanzibar Marine Authority.
‘‘When they were registered, they signed declaration forms that the marine vessels would never be involved in illicit drug trade, ship weapons or be used for human trafficking. So, the fact that they have been seized for these very reasons, it means that the owners violated the laws”.
The vice president said the decision was reached in consultation with authorities from the Revolution Government of Zanzibar and that, going forward, the two governments will form a committee to review registration of all ships flying the Tanzanian flag.
The Andromeda, which contained a lot of explosive materials was bound for Libya, a nation which is still riddled by warfare and is considered to have an ISIL base. The implication of using ships under the national identity of Tanzania along the sea-faring corridor has grave implications not only for Tanzania but the entire security of the east African nations.
The possibility of establishing an arms trade route capable of reaching into West Africa for both internal political up-rising, terrorist activities and crime from the east cannot be overstated. It goes without saying that the security of the borders, socio-economic activities and, indeed, the responsibilities of governments in proving transparent and effective services in security, taxation, and well-being of its citizens will be compromised sooner than later.
The vessel was reported detected sailing near the Greek island of Crete on a Saturday. Authorities found 29 containers carrying materials including ammonium nitrate, non-electric detonators and 11 empty liquefied petroleum gas tanks.
“The materials were headed to Libya,” Rear Admiral Ioannis Argiriou told reporters. He said the material could be used “for all sorts of work, from work in quarries to making bombs and acts of terrorism”.
According to the ship’s bill of lading, the cargo had been loaded in the Turkish ports of Mersin and Iskenderum and was destined for Djibouti and Oman.
But the coastguard said a preliminary investigation found the captain had been ordered by the vessel’s owner, about whom no mention has been made in terms of identity or nationality and arrest, to sail to the Libyan city of Misrata to unload and deliver the entire cargo.
No shipping maps were found on the ship’s logbook for the Djibouti and Oman areas, the coastguard said. But the eight-member ship crew were reported arrested and expected to appear before a prosecutor.
While this act would roundly embarrass the respectable Tanzanian government led by President Magufuli, it also contravenes the European Union and United Nations-imposed arms embargo and prohibition of the sale, supply or transfer of arms to Libya since 2011; and for very obvious reasons too.
The Kaluba’s was laden with ‘1,600 kilos of cocaine hidden between the fuel tanks aboard the ship on December 31,” the World Maritime News website reported.
According to reports, Tanzania has in the past been on the spot over vessels from countries targeted by UN sanctions flying its flag, mainly North Korea and Iranian ships. It has also suffered diplomatic embarrassment after vessels it has flagged are used to ferry illicit drugs. In the past year, Last year, Tanzania had been forced to deregister 45 foreign vessels for breach of U.N. sanctions against North Korea.
The government of Tanzania would, therefore, need to determine if the sanctions it has announced would be sufficient for a national embarrassment and punishment but more importantly a sufficient deterrent for others.
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