Zanzibar has angrily dismissed as baseless reports that it had licensed North Korean ships to fly Tanzanian flag against the UN sanctions on the Asian nation.
According to Zanzibar's Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communication and Transport, Mustafa Aboud Jumbe, Zanzibar Maritime Authority (ZMA) is the only Tanzanian authority that registers and issues operational licences to international ships.
"We have swiftly responded because once Tanzania is mentioned regarding registration of international ships, it means Zanzibar ... we deny media reports, quoting somebody claiming to be an investigator, that Tanzania has issued licences to 50 North Korea owned vessels facing international sanctions.
This is pure lies," stressed Mr Jumbe. He said reports by an individual in South Korea, claiming to be an 'investigator' on vessels operating in the estranged Asian nation, named Leo Byrne, aims at tarnishing the image of Tanzania and ZMA as far as international businesses are concerned.
The story was picked and widely circulated by a section of social and mainstream media in Tanzania.
Mr Jumbe noted that ZMA was thorough in the registration and issuance of international licences to foreign vessels to avoid violation of international laws and sanctions. Some of the conditions that applicants for the international licences have to meet include submission of Bill of Sale, Deletion certificate, citizenship or residence of owner, full name of the company and address.
Zanzibar dismisses reports on ships ZMA Director General Abdalla Hussein Kombo accused the author of the story of failure to consult his office for comments, ending up with the false news article that lacked details, as a result.
"This was a malicious story that sought to break our good relations with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)," he said. Mr Kombo said that his office had so far registered over 400 vessels operating locally and globally. "Our work has been recognised and legally approved by IMO ... we take all precautions lest us violate any law," he explained.
Mr Kombo said ZMA has been working independently since 2014 after it terminated its contract with Dubai-based Philtex agent, which issued licences to Iranian ships in 2013, when the Middle East nation was under sanctions.
"We ended the contract with Philtex, but it is unfortunate that the agency is still registering and issuing licences secretly to foreign vessels. We have already confiscated two vessels with fake registration by Philtex," he charged, adding that the Attorney General's office is handling the issue, contemplating legal actions against the company.
He said his office in collaboration with the Ministry responsible for International Affairs will search the author of the story in South Korea and demand details that link Tanzania with the registration of North Korean ships. Mr Kombo said his office was determined to get the truth, saying despite being careful in registering international ships, some dishonest companies could be using Tanzania flag illegally.
"Immediately after the resolution, we cross checked our list and de-registered one ship named 'First Gleam' from the embattled Korea.
The ship had been registered in January before the resolution and my office informed the foreign ministry," he said.
The UN resolution passed in March, 2016 calls on member states to de-register any vessels that is owned, operated or crewed by North Korea.