An in port inspection of an Omani tuna longliner with the name NAHAM-4 conducted by South African authorities revealed inconsistencies between the amount of fish held on-board and the supporting documentation. Whilst trying to confirm the identity of the vessel, investigations exposed at least four different vessels that had been operating with the name NAHAM-4 between 2010 and 2013.
March 2013: A tuna long-liner, NAHAM-4 with call sign A4DK6, was inspected in Cape Town. Inconsistencies between the amount of fish held on-board and the supporting documentation were identified. The name of the vessel had been painted on the hull but a faded name could be seen under this, which raised questions about the identity of the vessel.
The vessel was detained under suspicion that it was falsely claiming to be NAHAM-4 and a South African Police Service Forensic Analyst confirmed that there was indeed a hidden name, that of DER HORNG 569. DER HORNG 569 was historically flagged to Belize whose authorities reported that the DER HORNG 569 and a sister vessel the DER WEI 686 had been reported as stolen by their Taiwanese owner Der Wei Fishery Co. Ltd.
June – July 2013: Investigations revealed that between 2010 and 2013 four different vessels had been operating with the name NAHAM-4 and that the vessel held in Cape Town was significantly larger than the NAHAM-4 that was authorised to fish in the IOTC region. Comparisons of photographs of vessels showed significant differences in the structure of the vessels and inconsistencies between the call signs painted on the vessels. In one example, the name NAHAM-4 was marked on a vessel alongside the call sign A4DK5, this call sign is officially recorded with IOTC as the call sign for the NAHAM-3. The NAHAM-4 seized in Cape Town had the correct call sign painted on the side, but showed obvious structural differences to another NAHAM-4 photographed at sea in April 2012.
Photographs were compared from Oman in August 2010, at sea in April 2012, on the synchrolift in Cape Town in July 2012 and in Cape Town between October 2012 and July 2013 these showed that four different vessels had been operating with the name NAHAM-4. The vessel photographed in Oman appeared to be larger than the vessel seized in Cape Town and the original tonnage certificate was for a vessel even smaller than the seized vessel. This suggested that perhaps none of these vessels was in fact the ‘real’ NAHAM-4 – meaning there may be as many as five vessels bearing this name.
Investigation confirmed that the documentation provided for the port entry to Cape Town had been falsified and neither the Omani owners, Al-Naham Co LLC4, nor the ship’s agent, Trade Ocean, could prove that the vessel was the NAHAM-4. Links to the Oman based company Seas Tawariq Co. LLC were detected, they are the owner of the infamous IUU fishing vessel TAWARIQ-1, arrested and confiscated by Tanzania in 2009.
July 2013: South African Authorities seized both the vessel and the fish on board.
September 2013: Al-Naham and its representatives, Wu Hai Tao and Wu Hai Ping, were charged and convicted on seven counts relating to contraventions of South Africa’s Marine Living Resources Act and IOTC’s Conservation and Management Measures.
2013: The ship owners abandoned the vessel, leaving the agent with debts amounting to USD 100 000. The vessel and fish on-board were forfeited to South Africa, both were auctioned.
2015-2016: Renamed the NESSA 7, FISH-i Africa track the vessel from South Africa to South America, Namibia and finally to Mozambique where she is inspected by the authorities, arrested and confiscated.
What did FISH-i Africa do?
- Used analytical tools and investigative techniques to gather and share intelligence
- Analysed photographic evidence to reveal the previous name of the vessel
- Communicated with the authorities in Belize
- Cooperated with the Omani press to raise awareness with the authorities in Oman
- Investigated ownership of the NAHAM-4 and links to the infamous TAWARIQ-1
- Publicised the case using the media and the Stop Illegal Fishing website
The story of the NAHAM-4 highlights the extent of vessel identity fraud that is occurring in the fishing industry, this clearly undermines the whole regulatory framework, damaging efforts to sustainably manage fisheries resources and denying revenue to developing countries. The introduction of mandatory IMO numbers for fishing vessels is essential: it is only with a global system of vessel identification that we can overcome these issues.