Mystrerious Movements on the Somali Coast: The POSEIDIN and the AL-AMAL

Summary

The POSEIDON and AL-AMAL were believed to be operating together in Somali and Kenyan waters without valid fishing licenses. Analysis of vessel tracks indicated that POSEIDON had engaged in illegal transhipment at sea with the AL-AMAL and others violating the new fisheries act of the Federal Government of Somalia. POSEIDON, a small trawler, originally came to the attention of the FISH-i Task Force as it seemed to be operating with impunity in the Somali region. Few vessels operated in this area due to the high levels of piracy at the time. In addition the South Korean owner Insung was known to the FISH-i Task Force as the operator of a number of IUU fishing vessels and this led to a closer look at the activities of the POSEIDON and the AL-AMAL.

Key events

September – November 2014:  The POSEIDON sailed from Cape Town in South Africa to Somalia and commenced movements consistent with trawling operations in Somali waters, including very close to the coastline.

January 2015:  Somali authorities arrested the POSEIDON for illegal fishing and it was reported that a USD 1.5 million fine was paid for the release of the POSIEDON, raising questions about the activities of the vessels as this was more than the value of the catch and the vessel.

January 2015:  An inspection in Mombasa Port, Kenya of the POSEIDON along with a second vessel, the AL-AMAL, raised further questions particularly about possible illegal transhipment in Somalia and true registration. The POSIEDON had been operating for six weeks at sea but did not have catches to show for this. Analysis of the movements of the vessel indicated transhipment.

The registration of the vessels was unclear, two Yemeni registration certificates supplied to Kenya showed significant inconsistencies. While, a Puntland fishing license claimed the AL-AMAL was flagged to South Korea, though this license was deemed a forgery, as Puntland were not able to issue licenses at the time. The other document was a Somali Registration certificate, which showed inconsistencies with the Puntland document e.g. the same registration officer but a different signature. The flag State was listed as Thailand in other documents. There were also inconsistencies over details of the vessels structure. The AL-AMAL in some documents appeared to be flagged to Yemen and owned by Burum Seafood.

21 January 2015:  Following the inspection of AL-AMAL in Mombasa, port logs indicate that the vessel moved to Wananchi a tuna processing plant – if the port logs are correct this would be an unusual destination for a trap-fishing vessel, which raises the question of whether AL-AMAL was only engaged in fishing activity or if it was also collecting fish from other fishing vessels, acting as a ‘mini-reefer’.

February to June 2015:  Both vessels exited Kenyan waters in February 2015. POSEIDON commenced operating off the Somali coast, with a consistent track indicating trawling activity. The AIS signal from AL-AMAL was inconsistent but it appears to have been primarily operating in Somali waters around this time and showed visits to Oman.

May 2015:  News reports indicate that Oman closed its port for three vessels on the way from Somalia to offload, due to communications from Somali officials saying that the vessels claim of a Somali flag was invalid were published. While both the POSEIDON and AL-AMAL, along with the BUTIYALO and HAYSIMO vessels are mentioned in the news stories, it is not clear what three vessels were actually refused port access.

August 2015:  The AL-AMAL is reported to have sunk in Somali waters with the crew of 34 were rescued by the Puntland Coastguard.

What did FISH-i Africa do?

  • Identified POSEIDON as a high risk vessel
  • Analysis of satellite tracking and company ownership
  • Facilitated cooperation with the FAO, UNODC, EU NAVFOR, Secure Fisheries and the Kenyan authorities.
  • FISH-i offered close support to Kenya during inspections

Conclusion

There seems to be little doubt that the POSIDON and the AL-AMAL were engaging in illegal transhipment at sea, the inconsistency in the documents suggest that at least one was a forgery and the various issues on the flagging history raised serious concerns. Today with the AL-AMAL, reportedly sunk, the POSEIDON is still believed to be operating in Somali waters. This case is still open for FISH-i Africa and the challenges of forgery, fraud, legal fishing, FishCRIME and flagging are very evident. With Somalia now a member of FISH-i Africa, cases such as this will gain a new momentum and opportunity for conclusion.