Nica Richards

By Nica Richards

Journalist


Chinese vessels seized off Namibian coast finally on their way home

Six vessels were found in South African waters and were fined, after their permission to seek shelter from storms only came following the vessels' seizure.


Chinese vessels found floating near Walvis Bay at the end of March found themselves in hot water after making their way to South Africa. The six vessels were brought to shore by Namibian officials patrolling the waters, and were at the time suspected of illegal fishing activities, as reported by New Era last month. Illegal fishing allegations were later quashed by Chinese embassy spokesperson Helen Lu who, according to the publication, released a statement explaining that treacherous waters forced the vessels to sail off the coast of Namibia. Lu said the vessels were en route from Equatorial Guinea back to…

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Chinese vessels found floating near Walvis Bay at the end of March found themselves in hot water after making their way to South Africa.

The six vessels were brought to shore by Namibian officials patrolling the waters, and were at the time suspected of illegal fishing activities, as reported by New Era last month.

Illegal fishing allegations were later quashed by Chinese embassy spokesperson Helen Lu who, according to the publication, released a statement explaining that treacherous waters forced the vessels to sail off the coast of Namibia. Lu said the vessels were en route from Equatorial Guinea back to China.

Investigations from Namibian authorities later cleared all six vessels of illegal fishing suspicions.

These ships then found their way to South Africa, and according to the department of environment, forestry and fisheries (Deff), the fishing trawlers were detected entering the South African Economic Exclusive Zone off the Northern Cape coast on 3 April.

Operation Phakisa Initiative 5’s fishery patrol vessel, Sara Baartman, then intercepted the vessels off the Western Cape coast and ordered them to the outer anchorage port in Cape Town.

Four days later, on April 7, all six vessels were boarded by integrated Phakisa 5 teams. Upon inspection, Deff found no fish aboard, and that all fishing gear was stored as per the Marine Living Resource Act.

“All the vessels were subsequently fined for entering South African waters without permission,” Deff spokesperson Albi Modise confirmed.

The department said that the Chinese Embassy did submit a request for the vessels to be permitted shelter in Cape Town from adverse weather conditions on 7 April, but the request was only received after the vessels had already been detained.

Modise explained that after the vessels were fined, they were released and monitored.

Permission for shelter was again requested off the coast of Port Elizabeth, in Algoa Bay, again due to adverse weather conditions. This request was approved by the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

“After departing Algoa Bay, the vessels sailed up the coast at speeds averaging between 5 and 7 knots. The vessels were monitored and left South African waters late on 19 April and early morning of 20 April 2020,” Modise said.

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