Namibia: Icelandic-Linked Fishing Vessel Confiscated

Namibian authorities have impounded a fishing vessel linked to the controversial Icelandic fishing company Samherji two weeks ago after it was caught fishing in a restricted zone area near Walvis Bay.

Heinaste is a fishing vessel built in 1990 by Volkswerft Stralsund, and has been sailing under the Namibian flag.

The vessel is now stateless and deregistered.

Namibian Police spokesperson, chief inspector Kauna Shikwambi confirmed the matter to The Namibian last week.

"On 22 November 2019, the Namibian Police seized the vessel Heinaste with regards to contraventions of sections 52(4) (a) and 49 (2) of the Marine Resources Act, Act No 27 of 2000, after it entered and illegally fished in Namibian waters.

The captain of the vessel was arrested, appeared before court, and was granted bail of N$100 000. Police investigations are ongoing," Shikwambi said.

For fishing vessels, statelessness arises where the vessel's existing flag state has accepted an international agreement to reduce or stop high-seas fishing in a given area, and the vessel does not wish to be subject to the flag state's law, so it revokes its flag and does not acquire another one.

The vessel is owned by Esja fishing.

Esja fishing owns Esja Seafood, a Samherji subsidiary company in Cyprus - and one of its main international holding companies.

Esja Seafood has bank accounts in DNB NOR, which were used to make illegal payments under the guise of 'consulting fees'.

This company in Cyprus allegedly also paid bribes into bank accounts in Namibia, for example to a company owned by Tamson 'Fitty' Hatuikulipi, the son-in-law of former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau.

The vessel previously caught fish for Fishcor.

Fishcor generated significant revenues, increasing from N$37 million in 2014 to N$250 million in 2015. However, a dip in revenue was recorded in 2016, before spiking to N$280 million in 2017.

Fishcor's acting chairperson, Bennet Kangumu, told The Namibian that he does not deal with operational activities. He referred queries to Fishcor's general manager of operations, Incencio Verde.

Verde, in return, refused to discuss affairs between Fishcor and the Heinaste fishing vessel.

"That vessel is owned by Esja Fishing. We cannot discuss such matters. It is fair if you can reach out to them about it,"Verde told The Namibian.

The vessel was also embroiled in a court battle earlier this year when Sinco fishing and Epango lodged an urgent application in the High Court to stop their foreign partners - Tidle Wave Investment, Esja Investment, Gazania Investment and Yukor Fishing - from selling it.

The local companies teamed up with Samherji to form a consortium called Arcticnam in 2013.

The partners in question wanted to sell the vessel for N$280 million.

The partnership is said to have generated over US$400 million for the quota holders alone.

The vessel was 100% financed by the Icelanders, but Namibians bought 45% of the vessel to the tune of N$140 million, of which only N$5 million was outstanding when the vessel was Namibian-flagged last year at Walvis Bay.

The sale was halted by the High Court in August this year after the court found that the shareholder agreement was binding, and that the resolution for selling the vessel was null and void.

The vessel is 120 metres long, and has an engine power of 5300 KW.

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