By: MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Fourteen Kenyans were among the 34 crew rescued after their Yemeni-flagged fishing vessel, Al Amal, sank off the coast of Somalia’s Puntland state on Friday last week.
The vessel developed a mechanical problem and ran aground on approaching Hobyo, after leaving a Yemen port on July 31.
It was heading to the Mombasa port.
According to maritime official Andrew Mwangura, the shipping schedule indicated that the ship was set to arrive at the Kenya port on Friday, the day the stranded crew were rescued after the vessel hit a cliff.
“Efforts to rescue the crew were coordinated by the Puntland Maritime Police Force, closely monitored by the European Union Naval Force,” said Mr Mwangura.
He added that the crew — comprising 14 Kenyans, 12 Indonesians, six Vietnamese and two Yemenis — would be flown to Nairobi.
“The efforts saved the crew from being taken hostage by pirate groups. The 34 are in Puntland’s capital Garowe, waiting to be moved to Kenya,” he said.
VESSEL’S ACTIVITIES INVESTIGATED
However, the fishing expeditions of the grounded vessel are being investigated by Puntland authorities.
“Al Amal and Poseidon were last year briefly seized by maritime authorities in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, and released under mysterious circumstances,” said Mr Mwangura.
The two vessels have been on the radar of maritime experts for alleged illegal fishing throughout the East African region.
They a are said to have failed to adhere to maritime laws.
Authorities at the Mombasa port held both vessels early this year after suspecting that they were being used for illegal fishing in Kenyan waters.
Maritime statistics indicate that up to 180 Iranian and 300 Yemeni vessels are illegally fishing in Puntland waters.
Some Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and European vessels are said to have invaded Somalia waters.
“Some of the Yemeni and Omani-flagged fishing vessels operating in the Horn of Africa are owned by the Taiwanese, Chinese, Koreans, Thais and Iranians,” said Mr Mwangura.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, the waters off Somalia’s coastline, that runs 3,205 kilometres, is rich in yellowfin and longtail tuna, Spanish mackerel, sardines and lobsters, among other species.