PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, January 29 (RIA Novosti) – Russian border guards opened fire on a Sierra Leone-flagged trawler in the Sea of Okhotsk after an eight-hour chase, forcing it to stop, security officials reported on Tuesday.
The vessel failed to respond when ordered to stop by the Federal Security Service (FSB) patrol ship Argal.
“The unknown ship failed to answer the radio call urging her to stop, but sped up and headed towards the outer limit of Russia’s exclusive economic zone,” a regional branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) frontier directorate said in a statement.The border guards chased the trawler, Sapsan, before calling an FSB An-72 patrol aircraft. The Sapsan initially slowed down, but as the patrol vessel approached, it sped up again.The FSB aircraft was forced to fire warning shots to stop the Sapsan, security officials said.
“The plane fired warning shots three times, but the captain risked his crew’s lives and continued the race,” security officials said.
The Sapsan only stopped when the aircraft finally opened fire on the ship. No one was hurt in the incident. The trawler, registered at Sierra Leone’s Freetown port, had an all-Russian crew of 19.
It was not clear what prompted the crew to try to outrun the coast guard vessel, but it was equipped to transport frozen and live crabs and may have been used for poaching, as it did not have the required technical documentation or ship’s log.
The vessel was escorted to the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where its captain faces administrative charges.
Foreign ships often operate under flags of convenience from West African states in order to take advantage of their lower registration costs and slack safety standards, campaign group Environmental Justice Foundation says.