Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson
The Kunlun (Taishan) is one of the “Bandit 6” toothfish-poaching vessels that have plundered the waters of the Southern Ocean with impunity for a decade.
Thailand now has the opportunity to send a strong message to poachers on the High Seas that Thailand’s ports are not places where pirates can fence their illicit cargos.
Last year the Thunder was detained in Malaysia and released with its illegal cargo after paying a fine that was relatively small compared to the value of the contraband in their holds.
If Thailand does the same with the Kunlun, it will simply encourage these poachers.
The captain of the Kunlun has apparently escaped and returned to Peru. Agents from the Spanish company Vidal Armadores were in Phuket, working behind the scenes in their attempts to clear the ship and its cargo.
The good news is that the investigation in Phuket is being led by Police Lt. Col. Panya Chaichana of the Marine Police who has been leading investigations of human trafficking on fishing vessels; he has a good record.
The shipping company seems to be complicit in this illegal operation despite their denials.
From an article from The Phuket News:
“South Services, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing. A company representative said, under condition of anonymity, ‘The Peruvian captain has already flown home and a new Indonesian skipper and crew are now in Phuket. The ship did not do anything wrong.
‘Before I agreed to represent this ship I checked their certificates and the people on the ship and established that none of them were on any blacklist.
‘I also checked the ship’s name and established that it was previously called the Funkau, not the Kunlun.
‘The only problem is with the product in the containers. Nothing appeared wrong or weird about the online Phuket Customs registration. If it had, I would not have taken on this job.’”
How can it be credible that a ship that is on the INTERPOL Purple list is accepted as legal by a legitimate shipping agency? The record of the Taishan(Kunlun and now Funkau) is well documented.
This company should be investigated thoroughly by Thai authorities to determine if Vidal Armadores had a role in working with South Services to clear this poaching vessel into Thailand with false papers and false cargo declarations.
I sent a message to South Services today, asking how it is that they could accept papers as legitimate from a vessel on the INTERPOL Purple list as a known toothfish poacher.
South Services (Thailand) Co. Ltd.
54 Montri Road, Muang, Phuket 83000
Tel: (66)0-7621-1447 , 0-7621-4117 , 0-7622-0816
Fax: (66)0-7621-3604 , 0-7623-0045
E-mail: [email protected]
I also sent Police Lt. Col Panya Chaichana a message of support today to tell him I was happy to hear that he is in charge of the investigation.