The vessel, Naham No 4, is currently being investigated by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the alleged violations, according to the managing director of Trade Ocean Shipping Services, the vessel's agent in Cape Town.
The owners of Naham No 4 are Taiwanese nationals who have abandoned the vessel and now face legal action in Taiwan, the official confirmed in an e-mail to Muscat Daily.
David Jooste, managing director of Trade Ocean Shipping Services, said in the e-mail: “The vessel was seized by South African Fisheries authorities for suspected illegal fishing. The Western Cape Directorate of Public Prosecutions then took on and made a case that the vessel had been utilised as an instrument in committing crime, and the court therefore granted that the vessel be forfeited to the state. The vessel is due to be sold by proxy or auction within the next month or two.
“The beneficial owners of this vessel are in fact Taiwanese nationals. This vessel was registered in Oman as a way for them to gain legitimacy. The owners abandoned the vessel here in Cape Town when it became clear they were not going to win their case, and left Trade Ocean with more than US$100,000 in debt. We are in the process of taking legal action in Taiwan.”
The South African Independent Online news site reported from Cape Town last October that Naham No 4, which was detained in March last year, was alleged to have had around 150 tonnes of illegally caught fish on board, valued at 5.6mn rands (approximately US$520,000) at that time.
According to a report last month by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission's (IOTC) Compliance Committee, the vessel and its catch have been forfeited to South Africa. The report recommended South Africa to 'engage with Oman to clarify the situation' regarding Naham No 4.
In a letter to IOTC, a copy of which is available with Muscat Daily, South Africa's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries department wrote, “During investigation, the ship agents and owners abandoned the vessel. It was confirmed that the documentation provided for the port entry were falsified. The owners and ship agent could not prove that the vessel in port was the Naham No 4. The vessel and the fish product on board was seized.”
Repeated attempts by Muscat Daily to contact the South African Western Cape Directorate of Public Prosecutions were unsuccessful. In addition, efforts to reach the Muscat-based company with ties to Naham No 4 failed.