Suspected scrappage scam may have netted vessel owner 1.359 million euros
In response to FISH-i Africa investigations, Greek authorities are currently investigating a potential fraud related to two vessels reported as scrapped in 2013 under an EU fishing vessel decommissioning scheme. The Greek owner of the trawlers GREKO 1 and 2 received 1.359 million euros from the EU as compensation for scrapping both vessels which was recorded as having taken place at a breaking yard in Perama, Greece.
The trawlers were originally built in India and named DEEPTHI 1 and DEEPTHI 2, and were later acquired in 2004 and registered under the Greek flag with the names GREKO 1 (ΓΚΡΕΚΟ 1) and GREKO 2 (ΓΚΡΕΚΟ 2). Suspicions were raised about the status of the vessels during investigations into a vessel called GREKO 1 in December 2016 for fishing illegally in Somali waters; the vessel was later fined. Official records, including the European Commission Vessel Register, showed a GREKO 1 and GREKO 2 as ‘scrapped’ in July 2013, just a few months before vessels using the same names and IMO numbers registered with the Belize flag.
Belize registration documents include unsubstantiated information on the GREKO 1 and GREKO 2, listing Somalia as the previous flag State and previous names as DEEQA 1 and 2, removing any connection to Greece. The vessels are currently docked in Mombasa port, and the original vessel names, DEEPTHI 1 and DEEPTHI 2 can still be seen embossed on the vessels hulls.
An information request to the EU made by the FISH-i Technical Team confirmed that: the vessels were part of the EU measure 1.1 “Permanent cessation of fishing activities”, of the Operational Program for Fisheries 2007-2013 of Greece, on 14.11.2012. The scrapping of these vessels took place on 07.08.2013 and 25.06.2013 respectively, while the owner company "THALASKO FISHING" received the related compensation of 674.024,50 euros (EFF contribution: 572.920,83) for "GRECO 1" and 685.321,00 euros (ΕFF contribution: 582.522,85) for "GRECO 2".
Photographs of the scrapping are required to verify the decommissioning pay out and copies of these photographs would help in clarifying the actual identity of the vessels that were scrapped.
FISH-i Africa has conducted a thorough review of all the documentation of the GREKO 1 and 2 and identified that the two vessels reported by the EU as decommissioned are likely operating in the Western Indian Ocean. The GREKO 1 has a history of fishing in Somalia without a licence, using damaging gear, and operating in areas close to the shore which are reserved for local fishers.
At this point there are more questions than answers and further investigations are needed, and it is now in the hands of the Greek authorities to investigate further whether significant financial fraud has taken place. Regardless of the outcomes of this particular case, it is increasingly apparent that loopholes and information gaps in the international system for identifying commercial fishing vessels make it easy for the system to be exploited for profit. TMT continues to work to close this information gap.
About FISH-i Africa
FISH-i Africa unites eight East African coastal countries – Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania – to tackle illegal fishing in the Western Indian Ocean. By cooperating, sharing vessel data and accessing satellite-tracking expertise, FISH-i Africa enables authorities to identify and act against large-scale illegal fishing and fisheries crime.
FISH-i Africa is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and a Coordination Team made up of Stop Illegal Fishing, NFDS and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT).