August 11, 2003

Navstar 1 British Ministry of Defence photo
Brits nab oil smuggler

Coalition forces operating in southern Iraq have seized an oil tanker in the Arabian Gulf. A British Ministry of Defence statement describes the ship as a 1,100 ton vessel. However, news reports refer to 1,100 tons of oil being aboard the vessel at the time of seizure.

The ship--the Navstar 1-- docked Monday in the port of Umm Qasr, and the crew are now under arrest by Iraqi authorities.

On Friday night (August 8), the British Royal Navy ship HMS Sutherland sent a team of Royal Marines to board the MV Navstar I. This followed three previous boardings of the vessel in international waters in the northern Arabian Gulf. The Navstar had been under surveillance for several days and had been seen receiving small fuel barges alongside on many occasions. This boarding was the result of a coordinated Coalition effort and by 10.30 pm on Friday, the Sutherland's team had secured the vessel and arrested the crew with the intention to detain them for further investigation.

According to the Equasis data base, the Navstar 1 is a Panamanian flagged vessel of 7,837 gt registered to Navstar Shipping of Dubai. The ship is classed with the Russian Register of Shipping and its former name was Nikifor Rogov. Its previous owner was Vals International.

A Coalition Forces spokesman said: "This is a significant find which demonstrates the effectiveness of our ability to detect and deal with oil smuggling. We have activities taking place across Iraq, on land and at sea, which are proving effective week after week."

The ship was initially handed over to a U.S. Navy crew from the USS Rodney M Davies. The ship was ordered to sail to Umm Qasr and docked there this morning (August 11). The crew are now being handed over to the Iraqi authorities who will arrest and detain them for further investigation. If convicted, the ship will be forfeited and the crew will serve a lengthy term in prison

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