SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 — Just one day after Italian authorities finished putting out a fire aboard a ship carrying a cargo of cannabis (see earlier story), the French Navy found itself responding to a similar incident.
As boarding team neared, crew of LUNA-S set their vessel on fire (French Navy photo)
Based on information from the French customs, the maritime prefecture of the Mediterranean had received authorization to intercept, board and divert the LUNA-S, a 1975-built, 1,530 dwt general cargo ship strongly suspected of drug trafficking.
On the morning of Sunday, September 8, a French Navy team, supported by Customs, headed to intercept the suspect vessel in international waters in the south of the western Mediterranean. But on seeing the boarding team approaching, the crew of the LUNA-S set fire to the ship
After evacuating the eight crew members, who are all safe, the French sailors were assisted in containing the situation on the drifting vessel by an Algerian rescue team.
The maritime prefecture of the Mediterranean immediately despatched the assistance and rescue tug Abeille Flandre to the scene, where it arrived during the night of Sunday to Monday.
The search for narcotics resumed and by late Sunday Customs experts had confirmed the presence on the LUNA-S of cannabis, though work was slowed by the smoke and heat remaining on board.
The Abeille Flandre took the fire damaged vessel under tow Monday and headed for a French port,
Both the LUNA-S and the vessel in the earlier incident, the GOLD STAR, were flying the flag of Tanzania and registered to entities listed as having Majuro MH, Marshall Islands, addresses.