Seven Namibian fishermen returned to Namibia two weeks ago after being detained at the port of Al Mukalla in Yemen for almost a year.
Their detention and that of 24 other fishermen from Russia, Indonesia, Peru and Senegal, was effected after their vessel, the Cobija, was held at a port in Yemen when their captain, Pablo Villar, was informed Australia had issued an Interpol warrant for his arrest over the illegal catching of toothfish.
The crew has been detained since 26 September last year and were only released two weeks ago with the help of Vilho Nghifidaka, Namibia’s ambassador to Egypt.
In a series of letters Villar sent to Nghifidaka, the Namibians said their situation was dire, and asked to be repatriated.
They said while detained they feared contracting Covid-19, and that they did not have the finances to travel from Yemen to Windhoek.
They claimed their vessel was infested with rats and they did not have food and water.
They said they were afraid of losing their lives – not only due to drought, but also because of the armed conflict in Yemen.
Fish-i Africa reported that the Cobija was suspected to be involved in toothfish poaching in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) convention area.
At the time, the Cobija was allegedly carrying 228 tonnes of frozen toothfish worth approximately N$65 million.
The Namibians on board were Julius Nghitila, Onesmus Kashala, Festus Kashala, Ananias Nawa, Jeremia Kashala, Abner Kawaya and Shikambe Natatius.
Speaking to The Namibian last week, Jeremia Kashala and his younger brother Onesmus said they travelled to Myanmar on 15 December 2019 to look for greener pastures in Asia.
On 29 December 2019 they went to sea on the Cobija, and spent nine months on the vessel.
They say while on their way to offload, they were approached by Australian authorities, who requested their travel documents.
Their Spanish captain was then fined for alleged illegal fishing, the brothers said.
“They stopped the vessel and asked for our passports and seaman books. They told us we were fishing illegally . . . we did not know,” Jeremia said.
Although they were fined by the Australian authorities, this authority did not detain them, he said.
“We were detained in Yemen for almost a year. We spent most of the time in the vessel,” Jeremia said.
The Kashala brothers claimed they have not received their salary from their employer during this time, and were therefore unable to travel to Namibia.
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According to their employment contracts, they were promised a monthly salary of N$40 800 and a bonus of N$90 per tonne of fish caught, they said.
The brothers said their family bought them flight tickets to fly from Yemen to Egypt, while their captain bought flight tickets from Cairo to Windhoek.
The Namibian embassy in Cairo last week promised to respond to questions, but did not do so at the time of going to print.
Several international news agencies reported early this year that the Cobija is believed to be a stateless vessel, following de-registration by its flag state Bolivia in January 2019.
Fish-i Africa reported the vessel had various countries’ flags stored in its bridge.
The Cobija is berthed in Myanmar, while a forged Puntland licence has allegedly been issued, and it is claimed it has been sold to a Somali company called Precision Shipping Services for US$300 000 (about N$4,5 million).
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/202110040724.html
Author : Namibian
Publish date : 2021-10-04 12:29:37