Icelandic fishing giant Samherji is frustrated at Nambian authorities' choice to seize the company linked vessel Heinaste for the second time last Friday in the wake of the ongoing Fishrot scandal.
“It is our view that the renewed seizure of Heinaste is wrongful under Namibian law and we will now take necessary legal steps in Namibia in court if necessary,” Samherji Interim CEO Bjorgolfur Johannsson told IntraFish.
The vessel garnered a lot of interest during the height of the scandal beginning November 2019, when Samherji confirmed the Heinaste had been detained by Namibian authorities, along with Captain Arngrimur Brynjolfsonn.
At this point, however, Samherji has limited remaining exposure to Namibia. The purpose of keeping Heinaste in Namibia was to end a charter or sale to local operators with the object of preserving the jobs of local fishermen, Samherji said.
Only convicted individuals can have assets seized under Namibian law and Heinaste's owner hasn't been charged nor convicted of any offense, the company said.
Captain Brynjolfsonn pleaded guilty on three charges of having fished in waters shallower than 200 meters, which is in breach of the quota conditions.
The captain was fined and although the state applied for the forfeiture of the vessel, the court refused to grant a forfeiture order, finding that it was not proven that the owner of the vessel, Heinaste Investments, in which Samherji indirectly holds a controlling interest, did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the vessel from being used illegally.
The presiding judge in the case ordered the state to return the vessel’s papers to the owner.
Nelius Becker, head of the police criminal investigation directorate, said authorities impounded the vessel again on Friday according to Article 28 of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA).
“We had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel might leave Namibia. The authorities will hold onto the vessel until the prosecutor general decides on the way forward,” Becker said.
Heinaste was due for delivery to South Korea on Friday after Esja Investments sold the vessel to a Russian company last year.
"Samherji is concerned that the Namibian Police deliberately ignored the court order and refused to return the ship’s papers to the owner, as the court ordered it to do. This delays the re-employment of the ship’s crew to the benefit of Namibian society,” Jóhannsson said.
Johannsson told IntraFish at the time that there was "a lack of understanding" for how the market for vessels works, adding that market prices are bound to fluctuate but that the current price is at around $19 million (€17.1 million).