10 Mariners Arrested Following Drug Bust

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-05 10:33:52

Ten Turkish mariners have been detained following a drug raid aboard a cargo vessel.

The Italian coastguard received a tip-off from Turkish police that there were drugs aboard the Meryam, a 1613 dwt, Turkish-flagged cargo vessel. They boarded the ship in the Strait of Siciliy Friday and found 12 tons of hashish aboard worth approximately EUR 40m ($45m).

Italian authorities planned the narcotics operation in a coordinated effort with Turkish, French, Egyptian, Spanish, Moroccan and Europol law enforcement. The ten Turkish mariners aboard have been arrested and the ship was brought to Palermo, Italy. The Maryem is reported to have been on route from Morocco when it was seized.


68 Smuggled into UK Port on Ferry

By MarEx 2015-06-05 09:42:31

Sixty-eight suspected illegal immigrants, including two pregnant women and 15 children, were discovered crammed in trucks transported into the UK by a Stena ferry.

Authorities received reports of people locked inside vehicles a Harwich International Port in eastern England around 10:00pm. The group was found on Thursday night during a search of four trucks which had been on the Stena Hollandica super-ferry from the Netherlands.

The East of England Ambulance Service said seven of the people, including the pregnant women were taken to nearby hospital suffering from abdominal and chest pains, although none was said to be in a life-threatening condition. They were later released after treatment and all 68 – 35 Afghans, 22 Chinese, 10 Vietnamese and one Russian – were handed over to Border Agency officials.

“Polish nationals, who were driving the vehicles, have been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration,” a Home Office spokesman said.

“They have been taken to separate police stations and will now be questioned by the Home Office’s criminal investigations team while enquiries continue.”

Britain has long faced the problem of immigrants attempting to illegally enter the country from Europe, often by hiding in trucks crossing the Channel from the French port of Calais.

Last August, 35 people suffering from dehydration and hypothermia were found inside a container at Tilbury Docks, London’s major port on the River Thames. One later died.

In 2000, the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants were found crammed in a truck at the southern port of Dover.


Vietnamese ‘Sovereignty’ Cruise Angers China

By Reuters 2015-06-05 08:28:00

Vietnam is offering scores of patriotic citizens the holiday of a lifetime with a cruise to some of Asia’s most hotly contested islands, in a move likely to stoke its simmering dispute with Beijing over South China Sea sovereignty.

In a special $800 promotion offer, 180 Vietnamese will get to see parts of the disputed Spratly archipelago later this month and take part in night fishing, visit a lighthouse and enjoy local seafood.

High-rollers will have VIP hotel rooms and can fly in on their private helicopters, according to the Ho Chi Minh City government’s website.

The elaborately worded offer is for a six-day cruise that will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese, which the country has occupied for some time despite rival claims.

It makes little attempt to disguise its political flavor, and comes as Vietnam pursues a bolder agenda in pushing its claims in the face of China’s own growing assertiveness.

“Traveling to Truong Sa … means the big trip of your life, reviving national pride and citizens’ awareness of the sacred maritime sovereignty of the country,” the promotion said.

“Tourists will no longer feel Truong Sa as far away, the blue Truong Sa ocean will be deep in people’s hearts.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed anger at the move on Friday.

“Vietnam’s actions violate China’s sovereignty. We demand that Vietnam respect China’s sovereignty, not take actions that complicate or magnify the situation, and make proper efforts to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” he said.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia each compete for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China, which claims nine-tenths of the South China Sea, a vital global shipping lane with potentially vast energy reserves.

The cruise mirrors those offered by China on ships like its “Coconut Princess“, and illustrates a growing civilian presence in the South China Sea as countries vie to cement their competing claims.

China has been criticized for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures. The United States last week said Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory.

Despite close party-to-party ties with Communist neighbor China and nearly $60 billion of annual trade, analysts say Vietnam has taken a harder line since a fresh territorial row erupted last year and wants to boost diplomatic and military alliances.

Its media ran news last month of the opening of a new school on the Spratlys, and Vietnamese troops stationed there joined counterparts from the Philippines in a soccer match.

The cruise is a trial run ahead of Vietnam’s tentative plans to put the Spratlys on its tourism map, including scheduled passenger flights, possibly this year.

The description reads like a brochure for a Caribbean holiday.

“See 300 species of coral creating wonderful reefs in sparkling colors, in ravishing, fantastic beauty,” it said. “Watch the sunrise over the ocean, and say goodbye to the sunset in the evening amid the immense sky and sea.”


Damen seeking stake in Vietnam shipyard

Dutch shipbuilder Damen is looking to acquire a 49% stake in Vietnamese shipyard Ha Long, according to reports in Vietnamese state media and a press release by Ha Long’s parent company, the state-owned Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (SBIC).
An official from Damen told IHS Jane’s that the company