Despite recent maritime incidents, Seychelles not slowing down drug fight at sea: official

Seychelles is not slowing down its efforts in the fight against illegal drugs coming in by sea, the fisheries minister said on Wednesday while giving updates on three incidents that happened in the past three weeks.

Jean-Francois Ferrari told a press conference that Seychelles is being congratulated and supported by the international community on all levels and is seen as a country doing a serious job in the fight against illegal drug trafficking.

“This means we expect to get more help in terms of assistance to continue doing this job. Even if an offence is not committed in Seychelles, we will intervene as we do not live in an isolated world. We are all connected and if we do not work as part of the cooperation, we will not be able to protect ourselves and others,” said Ferrari.

Drug bust on local fishing vessel

Three Seychellois and four Indonesian nationals, who were onboard a local fishing vessel, the BABA ALI, have been arrested after the vessel was intercepted during the weekend. This happened during a coordinated operation by the Seychelles Air Force, Seychelles Coast Guard and National Information Sharing and Coordination Centre on May 22, when the vessel was intercepted in the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“When it comes to BABA ALI, our fight against drugs has borne fruit. With the help of gathered intelligence, we have been able to carry out an operation on this vessel and have placed them in the hands of the police force. I will not be able to go into details as this is a police case but according to information we have gathered, the total amount of drugs onboard BABA ALI was three times more than what we picked up, as some have gone missing in the Indian Ocean,” said Ferrari.

In a communique on Monday, the Police and the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) said that preliminary testing of the suspicious package contained hashish and heroin worth around SCR20 million ($1.2 million).

Eight Chinese vessels cleared to leave Seychelles

On May 19, eight vessels with Chinese nationals onboard were escorted to the Seychelles’ Port Victoria for relevant local authorities to carry out necessary procedures of identification.

The fleet was brought in after the unidentified vessels were sighted anchored close to Providence, an atoll in the Farquhar Group located 705 kilometres away from the main island of Mahé.

“The evidence we have gathered shows that the eight vessels have not committed any offence in the EEZ and our territorial waters. There were no fish on board, their gears were stowed away and they explained that they came to anchor in the waters of Seychelles due to bad weather,” said Ferrari.

He added that “we were told by the Chinese that they were going to fish in Madagascar and had a fishing agreement and as such, we held them in port until yesterday morning when they gave us a copy of their fishing agreement and the Malagasy Minister of Fisheries has validated that this is a legal and valid document.”

Though the vessels have not done any illegal activities in the waters of Seychelles, the owner of the fleet has agreed to pay a compensation of $55,000 to the Seychelles’ government for not signalling their presence in the island nation’s territorial waters. No port dues have been charged as the fleet was invited to port by relevant authorities.

“This case shows that Seychelles takes its responsibility as a serious country that is aware of all that happens in its waters,” said Ferrari.

The eight vessels were expected to leave port on Wednesday morning.

No case to answer in relation to two dhows carrying 22 Pakistani nationals.

Two dhows were intercepted in the Seychelles’ waters on suspicion of illegal fishing inside Seychelles’ waters on May 7. In a joint communiqué from the Seychelles Coast Guard and Police, it was outlined that officers of relevant authorities have boarded the two vessels to carry out their investigation when the vessels were intercepted around 180nm North West of Mahe. The vessels were, on the same day, brought closer to Mahe for further investigation.

“We brought them to port and the concerned agencies went onboard to carry out their investigations, but we didn’t see anything. All intelligence showed that the two vessels were bringing drugs into Seychelles. Police dogs that were brought on board caught the scent of drugs but despite searches, nothing came up,” said Ferrari.

“Is this a failure or not? We do not see it as such. In this domain, there are days of accomplishments and days when you don’t achieve an aim,” he continued.

He outlined that the Pakistanis have been released with no case to answer and the dhows have already left Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

Source: Seychelles News Agency