The complex network of vessel identity fraud is highlighted in this case with multiple vessels operating under a range of identities, only photographic evidence and AIS and VMS tracks were able to show that at least five vessels appear to be sharing two identities which could enable the operators to avoid license fees, misreport catches and commit other fisheries crimes.
April 2014: The vessels were first brought to the attention of FISH-i when AIS showed signals for the HUNG SHENG NO. 88 and CHI HSIANG NO. 7 departing Port Louis, bound for the Tanzanian EEZ. There was no indication of CHI HSIANG NO. 7 being authorised to fish in any RFMO or other records. At this time it could not be ascertained which vessel was transmitting the signal.
June 2014: The HUNG SHENG NO. 88 and BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 requested permission to tranship in Mombasa. AIS showed HUNG SHENG NO. 88 and CHI HSIANG NO. 7 approaching Mombasa – it was not known if CHI HSIANG NO. 7 was the same as BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 or if there was a third vessel, although no vessel was transmitting as BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68. Kenya worked with the FISH-i Africa Technical Team to explore these vessels further and as no IUU fishing history was identified the and transhipment went ahead. The vessels had been fishing in the Tanzania EEZ, where they were licensed until July, and the fish was destined for Chi Hsiang Fishery Co. Ltd in Taiwan.Further research revealed that the BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 was previously flagged to Taiwan and had been operating under different names.
August 2014: FISH-i continued to monitor these vessels and analysis of the AIS data for CHI HSIANG NO. 7 and VMS data for BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68, confirmed that these were in fact the same vessel. AIS tracks showed that vessels entered Port Louis in August 2014 and that AIS was not transmitting from late August. In October – CHI HSIANG NO. 7’s AIS was switched on and the vessel departed Port Louis in Mauritius.
December 2014: A longliner named KARYA WIJAYA 201 called to Port Louis for a few days early in December and later in the month a different longliner, also called to Port Louis using the name of KARYA WIJAYA 201. The vessel was carrying paperwork indicating that it was KARYA WIJAYA 201, but inspectors noticed differences in the design of the two vessels and noticed that the second vessel had been recently painted and did not display a call sign. It was also transmitting on AIS as CHI HSIANG NO. 7. The vessel departed Port Louis that night and Mauritius reported to FISH-i countries to look out for a vessel reporting on AIS as CHI HSIANG NO. 7 as it appeared to be using a fake identity.
December 2014: Photo analysis revealed that the vessel that called into Port Louis at the end of December showed strong similarities to the BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 photographed in Mombasa in June 2014. When combined with AIS movements it seemed very likely that these are the same vessel as structural and cosmetic details matched. What was less clear was why the BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 would want to assume the identity of KARYA WIJAYA 201 – possibly because in July 2014 the IOTC authorisation for BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 would expire, while the KARYA WIJAYA 201 was authorised until May 2015.
April 2015: News sources in Indonesia report the deaths of five Indonesian fishermen on board fishing vessels BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 and BINTANG SAMUDRA – 11 in waters off Senegal, indicating this cannot be the same BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68 that was operating under that name, and later as KARYA WIJAYA 201, in the WIO in June 2015 when it was tracked in the Malacca Straits in June. The real identity of the vessel operating in Senegalese waters has not yet been identified and it is not known which of these two vessels is the ‘real’ BINTANG SAMUDRA – 68, or indeed if either is as it is possible that both are operating under false identities.
There are indications that the second vessel involved in the Senegal case is also involved in identity fraud. BINTANG SAMUDRA – 11 is the name used by a vessel that was detained by South Africa in late 2013 and currently remains in Cape Town undergoing repairs. There are indications that the vessel detained by South Africa is not the ‘real’ BINTANG SAMUDRA – 11, as markings on the hull indicated that this vessel had previously been named HOOM XIANG 20.2. Whilst it is not clear exactly what identity this refers to, it appears to have been part of the Hoom Xiang fleet of vessels that were deflagged by Malaysia in late 2011.
What did FISH-i Africa do?
- Analysed photographs of vessels to establish identity
- Tracked vessels and compared AIS with VMS
- Inspected vessels and shared inspection reports
This case clearly shows the importance of taking and sharing photos of fishing vessels, without these the misuse of identities would have been difficult to confirm. Prompt communication and sharing of information between FISH-i members was key to establishing the facts and to allowing on-going monitoring. Whilst the case did not lead to enforcement action it highlighted the complex use and abuse of vessel identities and the misuse of AIS and VMS tracking systems, indicating more extreme examples of identity abuse than had previously been understood. More systematic communication with flag States is needed to assist in these cases as is the need for a global record of IMO numbers for commercial fishing vessels.