Another Case of Guns On Board


By Wendy Laursen 09-30-2015 10:49:50

Just as Höegh Autoliners issued a statement clearing its captain from involvement in a shipment of guns, another, unrelated, incident has occurred, this time in Vietnam.

The Norwegian-flagged car carrier, Höegh Transporter, was held in Kenya for more than a week over undeclared guns. The company issued a statement saying that no crew had been arrested and that it is company policy not to load weapons on vessels engaged in civilian traffic. 

In contrast, in the latest case of guns on board a merchant ship, a Vietnamese captain, Phung Van Chieu, 45, from the central province of Thanh Hoa, and 11 seamen, were temporarily detained after rifles were found on their vessel, Thanh Cong 36 Ship.

Local media reports that Chieu admitted that when he entered Thailand to bring plaster from Thailand to Vietnam, he bought the rifles to bring to the country for sale.

The list of recent incidents where ships’ crew are either deliberately or inadvertently involved in arms deals is growing. Earlier this month, Greek authorities seized a ship carrying an undeclared shipment of weapons en route from Turkey to Libya. The freighter, with a crew of seven, was escorted to Heraklion port on the island where the crew were questioned by authorities.

Masters and guns also made the headlines earlier this year at the inquest into the deaths on board the Sage Sagittarius – dubbed the “death ship.” An Australian court later heard that the vessel’s captain Venancio Salas was accused of selling firearms to the crew in testimony given to the Australian Federal Police.

A crew member said the captain had contacts within the Philippine Navy, and seafarers were buying firearms to stay in the captain's “good books.” The court heard was told of one account claiming the captain openly berated crew members who declined to buy a gun.

However, the problem may not be widespread, despite these recent cases. Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General of InterManager, says: “I don’t think we have a serious problem with guns on board. To carry guns on board a ship, the master has to complete documentation, and I would say that there are no “unaccounted” guns on board.”