The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre found the MV AL HUFOOF 1 moored in the harbour of Ho Chi Minh City. It had been missing since leaving the port of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates five months ago.
Acting on information passed on by the Piracy Reporting Centre, Ho Chi Minh port authorities boarded the MV HONG HEING last month and have since confirmed it is the missing AL HUFOOF 1.
“The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre sent out an alert to maritime contacts in the region and as a result of further investigations conducted by the IMB, were able to track the stolen vessel,” said IMB Director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan. “This has been another good example of cooperation between the shipping industry and Maritime Authorities.”
On 2nd September, 2000, the Georgian registered MV AL HUFOOF 1 sailed from Sharjah for Massawa in Eritrea, with a cargo of 3,241 metric tons of wheat flour and sugar.
Soon after her departure, the ship’s owners lost all contact with their vessel. Its last known position was in the Gulf of Aden on the 11th September.
Investigations by the ICC-International Maritime Bureau tracked the vessel to Vietnam. It had been renamed HONG HEING and was sailing under a Honduran flag. But Honduran authorities confirmed to the IMB that no such vessel could be traced in their registry.
This information was passed to the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Co-ordinating Centre, who in turn, relayed it to the Ho Chi Minh port.
The cargo of wheat flour and sugar had been illegally discharged into a warehouse in Ho Chi Minh City. Investigations have confirmed that the crew which brought the vessel into Ho Chi Minh City were the same crew who were on board the vessel upon departure in Sharjah.
The IMB recommends all owners should conduct detailed background checks into the certification and history of crew members, particularly, senior officers, before they appoint them to their vessels.
“It is vital that port authorities actively check documentation of vessels wh o come into their ports,” said Captain Mukundan. “An incorrect or absence of an IMO number in ship’s papers is often an indication of false identity. The actions taken by the Ho Chi Minh Port Authority and other Vietnamese government departments have helped to bring this case to a successful conclusion”.
The IMB Piracy Centre was set up in 1992. It is financed by voluntary contributions from shipping companies and Protection & Indemnity associations. IMB also posts a weekly world piracy status report on their website www.icc-ccs.org. The IMB is part of Commercial Crime Services, a division of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce.
The Piracy Reporting Centre has had considerable success locating stolen ships. Of the ten serious cases of hijacked and stolen ships in the past two years, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has helped recover nine.