Tankship Still Held, Government Illegally Selling Off Cargo Say Stena
According to Stena Oil, the West African republic of São Tomé e Príncipe is trying to sell cargo valued at USD 7,5 million which they wrongfully confiscated from Swedish company Stena Oil. This is the latest attempt by the government in São Tomé to profit on their illegal confiscation earlier this year of the ships 'Marida Melissa' and 'Duzgit Integrity', chartered by Stena Oil.
The two oil tankers have been wrongfully detained by São Tomé for nearly eight months. Following international pressure the two captains were recently released from prison, having received a presidential pardon. They are now repatriated to their home countries. One of the tankers, without cargo, was released last Friday but the one with cargo, the Maltese tanker M/T Duzgit Integrity, is still kept by Sao Tomé.
High ranking São Tomé government officials have apparently, despite an on going legal appeal, sought to sell the cargo to international interests. Fortunately their illicit actions have so far failed and the cargo valued at USD 7,5 million remains on board for now.
The appeal is still being handled by the judicial system in São Tomé but the charterers complain they have learnt the government seems to have an important role in the decision making. Stena Oil has never been served or notified of the process where the cargo was confiscated. Neither has Stena Oil been sentenced in the summary court hearing that took place in March.
More recently, on Friday October 11, 2013, according to the charterers, São Tomé armed forces boarded the Maltese tanker M/T Duzgit Integrity by force. The soldiers violently rounded up the crew and locked up all personnel in their quarters in an operation resembling an act of piracy. They confiscated all telephones and effectively cut all communications to and from the ship as well as any movement. Three crew members were forced at gunpoint to enter the engine room and prepare the ship to discharge her cargo. Since Sunday Stena Oil claim they have not been able to communicate with the ship although with the ship owner they strongly protested this highly irregular operation but São Tomé have refused to communicate.